GOVT TROOPS RETAKE MILF CAMP

Southern command commander Lt. Gen. Narciso Abaya announced victory over MILF after retaking a rebel camp.Zamboanga City, Jan. 31, 2003 (Al Jacinto, PHNO Mindanao Bureau) - Government troops have seized Wednesday a mountain rebel camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Talayan town in Maguindanao province.

"Soldiers are now in control of the rebel camp," said Lieutenant General Narciso Abaya, commander of military forces in the southern Philippines.

He said one soldier Pfc. Reynaldo Bred was wounded when MILF forces attacked an Army unit. The rebels fled after a ten-minute running gunbattle, leaving behind an M79 grenade launcher and anti-tank ammunition.

There were no reports of MILF casualties, but the military is verifying reports that several wounded gunmen were spotted escaping near the village of Tamar.

Abaya said the MILF camp in the village of Maradir could accomodate at least 100 rebels. "It is well fortified with trenches surrounding the camp. It also has one room, believed to be for VIPs," he told reporters in a news briefing.

The rebel camp is believed to be under MILF leader Amiril Cato. Troops also recovered in the camp several kitchen utensils, back packs and documents bearing markings of the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the military said.

Fighting between military and rebel forces was also reported in North Cotabato's Kabacan town on Wednesday, but there were no casualties on both sides. The military said soldiers recovered one rocket-propelled grenade and camouflage uniforms.

The MILF is the country's largest separatist Muslim rebel group still fighting for independence in the southern Philippines. The military have linked the MILF to a bomb attack Tiesday in Kidapawan City in North Cotabato province that left at least 16 people injured. But rebel leaders have denied the accusation.


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