Zamboanga City, March 25, 2003 -- Security forces have killed at least
three dozen separatist Muslim rebels in fierce weekend clashes in the
southern Philippines, officials said.

A regional military spokesman Major Julieto Ando said at least 10 members
of the al Qaeda-linked Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were killed and
a militiaman was wounded in fierce fighting Sunday morning in Pisan village
in North Cotabato's Kabacan town.

Ando said some 75 rebels, led by MILF commander Abdullah Matitik, attacked
an Army patrol triggering a running gunbattle. "At least ten gunmen were
killed in the fighting," he told reporters at a press conference Monday.

He said 26 more guerrillas were killed by troops in fighting Sunday
afternoon in the village of Tubaron in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in
Maguindanao province, a traditional stronghold of the MILF -- blamed by the
military for the spate of bombings and killings in the southern Philippines.

"Our military commanders reported that at least 26 rebels were also killed
in the fighting in Datu Odin Sintuat town and there was an attempt by MILF
forces to seize civilians and take control of a highway in the town, but we
have prevented this from taking place," Ando said without further elaborating.

Troops have recovered weapons, including an anti-tank rocket launcher and
three rounds of ammunition, left behind by the gunmen when they escaped
towards the hinterlands, Ando said.

He said helicopter gunships rocketed rebel positions in the town's jungle
where the gunmen have fled. Soldiers were dispatched Monday to clear the
area, but so far there were no reports of enemy resistance.

Southern Command chief Lt. Gen. Narciso Abaya said: "The rebels have been
attacking military forces and government targets and we are maintaining an
active defence here. Offensive operations against the terrorists and
lawless elements continue in the southern Philippines."

The military said an Army post in Palo village in Tubod town in Lanao del
Norte came under rocket and mortar attack Sunday from some 300 MILF rebels.
The gunmen fled after the attack.

A military report on Monday said 70 guerrillas, under MILF leader Pakil
Ayunan, also attacked an Army detachment over the weekend in the village of
Ganasi in Pikit town in North Cotabato province and that a militiaman was
injured the fighting that lasted almost an hour. There were no enemy
casualies, the report said.

The attacks on Sunday came a day after MILF forces destroyed two electric
posts of the state-run National Power Corporation (NPC) in Tantangan
village in South Cotabato, cutting off power to many towns in the largely
Christian province. (Al Jacinto, PHNO Mindanao Bureau)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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