6 SOLDIERS KILLED IN MILF AMBUSH  

Zamboanga City, Feb. 18, 2003 -- Separatist Muslim rebels ambushed early todaya group of soldiers in Maguindanao province and killed at least 7 soldiers, officials said.

A military report said eleven soldiers were also wounded in the attack near Matanog town in Maguindanao, a known lair of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels.

"Seven soldiers were killed in the ambush by MILF forces," said Presidential military adviser Eduaro Ermita.

Ermita said the attack occurredon a village inMatanog town.He said the rebels also attacked a group of unarmedArmy engineers in the town last week

"They even attacked the engineers who were unarmed and on their way to build a Mosque in Matanog last week," he said.

Southern Command chief Lt. Gen. Narciso Abaya has codemned the ambush and ordered the military to pursue the attackers.

"I condemn this treacherous attack and I have ordered the military to pursue the ambushers," he said.

The motive of the ambush was still unknown, but Abaya said the rebels were behind the series of attacks on patrolling soldiers. "The lawless elements have been attacking our position...our soldiers who are protecting the civilians against bandits and terrorists and kidnappers," he said.

A regional Army spokesman Lt.Col. Daniel Lucero said the soldiers, all members of the 64th Infantry Battalion,were onboard a military truck when guerrillas attacked them shortly before 9 a.m.

"The soldiers were able to retaliate and probably killed or wounded manyof the attackers, who split into small groups and then fled," Lucero said. (Al Jacinto, PHNO Mindanao Bureau)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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