MILF TORCH CHRISTIAN CHURCH, KILL 3 GOVT TROOPS

Zamboanga City, April 23, 2003 -- Two government soldiers and a militiaman were killed in separate attacks by separatist Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines, the military said on Wednesday.

The military said suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels fired two rounds of 60mm mortar shells on a Marine base in Pikit town in North Cotabato late Tuesday, wounding a seagent and a corporal.

There were no serious damage on the base of the 1st Marine Brigade. Troops, backed by armoured vehicles, searched the rebels' position, but failed to locate it, the military said.

Guerrillas also attacked patrolling soldiers in Tee and Dado villages in Datu Piang town in Maguindanao and military positions in Katibpuan village in Maguindanao's Talayan town, the military said.

A militiaman was also injured in a firefight with about 15 MILF gunmen Monday in Gawang village in Datu Piang, the military said. The militia was with a group of Army soldiers when they clashed with rebels.

The rebels also torched a small Christian church and ten thatched houses while escaping from pursuing soldiers. There were no reports of civilian or rebel casualties, the military said.

Government offensive conitinue against the MILF, the country's largest separatist rebel group fighting for the establishment of a strict Islamic state in the southern Philippines.

The military linked the MILF to terrorism and kidnappings in the southern Philippines. (Al Jacinto, PHNO Mindanao Bureau)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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