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Gov't troops kill 4 rebels in clash in S. Philippines.

MANILA, March 19 Kyodo

Philippine government troops on Tuesday killed four Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremist rebels in a three-hour clash in a remote village on southern Basilan Island, a military spokesman said.

Army Capt. Noel Detoyato said the encounter broke out around 11 a.m. when soldiers on patrol encountered 15 rebels in Kumalarang village, Latawan town.

A soldier was also wounded in the fierce exchange of gunfire, which ended around 2 p.m., Detoyato said.

Detoyato said the wounded soldier was evacuated by a Huey helicopter and flown to a military hospital in nearby Zamboanga City, where he was treated by U.S. and Philippine military doctors.

The spokesman also said that six alleged Abu Sayyaf rebels were arrested in the vicinity of Matikang village in Isabela City, the capital of Basilan. The suspects are being interrogated, he said.

There were no reported sightings of the U.S. missionary couple or Filipina nurse held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf on Basilan since May last year.

Basilan is a known hideout of the Abu Sayyaf, a kidnap-for-ransom group allegedly linked to the al-Qaida international terrorist network led by Osama bin Laden, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States.

Meanwhile, the spokesman for Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo told reporters Tuesday the U.S. has yet to officially request permission to bring in more troops to participate in joint Philippine-U.S. counterterrorism exercises ongoing in the southern Philippines aimed at crushing the Abu Sayyaf.

''There has yet been no proposal either coming from the U.S. or from our armed forces for additional U.S. personnel,'' Rigobeto Tiglao said, reacting to news reports that Washington wants to bring in more engineers from the U.S. Army to join the exercises.

A spokesman for a left-leaning group said in a statement that the ongoing joint exercises are ''setting a dangerous precedent for direct U.S. involvement in internal Philippine affairs.''

Teddy Casino said the exercises ''opened the door for open-ended and indefinite military actions short of a U.S. invasion of (Philippines) shores.''

''Why is it that all of a sudden, we need U.S. troops to build school buildings, roads and bridges and Basilan? Is the Philippine military so incompetent as to need U.S. training in these areas as well?'' he said.

''Civic action is a euphemism for psy-war operations, propaganda and intelligence gathering. It is part of the war which makes soldiers involved in it legitimate targets. The more U.S. soldiers there are, the more likely they will be attacked, leading to an escalation of the conflict,'' he added.

Activist Walden Bello said an international peace delegation of parliamentarians, social activists and scholars from Europe, Asia and the U.S. is due to visit Zamboanga and Basilan on Saturday.

''The international peace mission aims to investigate the impact of American military intervention in the area and to assess possible opportunities for international assistance towards a peaceful resolution of conflicts in the region,'' said Bello, the convenor of the mission.

The delegation is planning to stay in the southern Philippines until Tuesday, he said.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Mar 25, 2002
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