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The BBC's John McLean
"The Abu Sayyaf are now long gone, leaving some of their dead behind"
 real 56k

Sunday, 3 June, 2001, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
Philippine rebels escape siege
Lamitan fighting
Soldiers fought a day-long battle with rebels in Lamitan
Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines have broken through a military cordon, taking with them several of the hostages they had been holding, including three Americans.

At least five Filipino captives escaped during the fighting between the rebels, belonging to the Abu Sayyaf group, and government troops.

But officials say they have found the bodies of two Filipino hostages left behind by the rebels.

One had been beheaded.

Police said the two men had been killed a day or two earlier, probably as the army pursued the kidnappers into the town of Lamitan, on Basilan island, on Friday.

Hundreds of government troops had besieged them at a hospital and church compound.

A spokesman for the Philippines' armed forces, Brigadier General Edilberto Adan, said 12 soldiers, including an army captain, were killed and many others wounded in the failed siege.

The total army fatalities since the hostages were seized eight days ago now stands at 22.

There is no word on the rebel losses.

Break out

The rebels staged their break-out during the night, leaving a few members of their group behind to keep the troops at bay.

A military spokesman said that soldiers in Lamitan were searching the grounds of St Peter's Hospital compound to determine whether any rebels were still there.

President Gloria Arroyo had earlier warned them to give themselves up or be killed.

Twenty people were originally abducted from a resort off Palawan, but a total of nine have now managed to escape.

Philippine soldier
12 soldiers were killed in the aborted siege
However, Abu Sayyaf were reported to have seized more hostages on Saturday when they moved into Lamitan, about 900 km (550 miles) south of Manila.

In a broadcast to the nation President Arroyo told the rebels that their leader, Khadaffy Janjalani, had already been killed in fierce fighting with government troops on Friday.

"We will finish off all the bandits if they don't surrender at the earliest possible time," President Arroyo said. "To the Abu Sayyaf: You have nowhere else to run."

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See also:

02 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines hostage crisis deepens
01 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine troops battle kidnappers
31 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine military pursues kidnappers
29 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine rebels threaten hostages
28 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Assault ordered on kidnappers
27 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines hostage search begins
30 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Who are the Abu Sayyaf?
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