MILF COMMANDER CAPTURED

Zamboanga City, April 19, 2003  Government troops have captured five Moro 
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels, including a unit commander, in a 
clash Saturday in the southern Philippine province of Davao del Sur, 
security officials said.

The fighting brokeout around 5.10 a.m. in the farming village of Saub 
village in the remote town of Matanao after a dozen guerrillas attacked an 
Army patrol, said the Armed Forces chief information officer Lt. Col. 
Daniel Lucero.

"Soldiers captured five rebels, including an MILF commander Rashid Mujahid. 
They are all undergoing interrogation," Lucero told reporters.

The rest of the rebels managed to escape, but soldiers were tracking them 
down in the town's hinterlands, he said. Lucero said troops also recovered 
weapons, mostly automatic rifles, in the village. "The rebels were on an 
extortion and foraging mission in the village," he said.

An MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said they could not confirm the reports, but 
he admitted guerrillas are operating in the province. "We have no reports 
yet about the fighting, but the MILF have forces in the area," he said.

Kabalu said five government soldiers and a rebel were killed on Thursdsay 
in fierce clashes in Lanao del Norte province, but this was strongly denied 
by the military.

He said guerrillas attacked patrolling soldiers in Inudaran village in 
Kauswagan town with small rockets and automatic weapons, killing five of 
them. "We took down five soldiers and we still don't know if there were 
additional military casualties. We hit them hard," he said.

"Only two soldiers were slightly wounded and we have no casualties as what 
the MILF is claiming," a provincial Army commander Col. Ernesto Boac said. 
He said a still undetermined number of rebels were killed in the fighting.

The attack came after a homemade bomb planted by suspected MILF rebels on a 
passenger jeep exploded and wounding three people near a security 
checkpoint in the southern Philippine city of Cotabato in Maguindanao 
province, a regional Army commander Major General Generoso Senga said.

Senga said the explosion late Wednesday ripped through the side of the jeep 
where the bomb was planted, wounding 3 passengers. The bomb exploded just 
10 meters away from an Army checkpoint on a bridge in Cotabato City.

Security have been tightened in military checkpoints in the southern 
Philippines following the attack. No group has claimed responsibility for 
the attack and the MILF has denied involvement in the blast.

"We have nothing to do with this," Kabalu said.

Philippine authorities have linked the MILF to the spate of bombings and 
killings in the south and Western intelligence said the group has ties with 
the al Qaeda network and the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiya. (Al Jacinto 
PHNO Mindanao Bureau)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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