- The Washington Times - Friday, November 30, 2001

From combined dispatches
ZAMBOANGA, Philippines Mobs hacked a Muslim rebel to death yesterday as fresh fighting broke out between Philippine troops and guerrillas on the outskirts of southern Zamboanga city.
The rebel, caught by civilians, was the only confirmed casualty in the clashes, which occurred a day after the military allowed about 250 Muslim guerrillas safe passage out of Zamboanga in exchange for the release of 110 civilians they had taken hostage.
"Security forces clashed with this breakaway group at dawn and soldiers recovered a machine gun," southern military commander Lt. Gen. Roy Cimatu told reporters. "Soldiers are still pursing the gunmen, and we will not allow them to take new hostages or escape this time."
The new fighting involved about 30 rebel stragglers left behind in the retreat of the main body of guerrillas from the mainly Christian city of 750,000 people on Wednesday.
In a separate clash, soldiers killed a member of another Muslim guerrilla group, the Abu Sayyaf, holding U.S. missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham hostage for more than six months on nearby Basilan island, the military said.
"There was no visual sighting of the hostages. The bandits quickly disengaged and fled deeper into the jungles," Gen. Cimatu said.
The United States has linked the Abu Sayyaf to Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network now under attack in Afghanistan.
Yesterday's fighting in Zamboanga involved Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) guerrillas, who fought pitched battles with soldiers on Wednesday around a hill overlooking the city.
Zamboanga residents angered by the hostage-taking incident captured and killed a guerrilla armed with a machete while he was trying to escape from pursuing troops, a village official said on local radio.
"He was ganged upon and hacked to death," the official said.
The killing occurred as radio stations in Zamboanga were bombarded with calls from residents irate at the military's decision to allow the MNLF gunmen to leave the city with their weapons, which included assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
The guerrillas took the hostages while fleeing a military bombardment of their hilltop base.
After a tense 36-hour standoff, the rebels released all their captives, many of them women and children, in a deal that allowed them to leave Zamboanga with their weapons.
Presidential spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao told reporters in Manila the arrangement was necessary to defuse a potentially explosive situation and save the lives of hostages.
At least 25 guerrillas, five soldiers and one civilian were killed in Tuesday's fighting.
The guerrillas are die-hard supporters of Nur Misuari, MNLF chief and former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), who is now detained in Malaysia and has been charged in the Philippines with rebellion.
Malaysia said yesterday it was ready to deport Mr. Misuari at any time, but the Philippines suggested it was in no hurry to take him back.
Mr. Misuari led a 24-year MNLF revolt for an Islamic state in the south of the mainly Catholic Philippines until he signed a peace deal with the government in 1996, which led to his installation as governor of ARMM.
Last week, hundreds of Mr. Misuari's followers attacked military posts on nearby Jolo island in a failed uprising in which about 160 people were killed. He later was captured by local police in the Malaysian state of Sabah.


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