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Monday, 19 November, 2001, 14:57 GMT
Philippines peace deal broken
Philippine army unit
The army continues to hunt rebels on Jolo
Hundreds of Muslim rebels have launched attacks on army units in the southern Philippines, reneging on a 1996 peace deal with the government.

The regional army commander said 51 followers of former rebel chief Nur Misuari had been killed in the attacks on the island of Jolo. He said four soldiers had also died.

An aide to Mr Misauri said the attacks were intended to prevent elections due later this month in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)


Mr Misuari became governor of the ARMM under the 1996 accord, signed by him as head of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Mr Misuari says the elections scheduled for 26 November are a violation of the peace agreement. He is not standing for re-election.

Shortly after the attacks began, a member of Mr Misuari's staff said he had declared war.

The guerrillas, who were armed with mortars, attacked several army outposts, including the local headquarters in the main town of Jolo.

The armed forces called in helicopter gunships to help defend their positions.

Military southern command chief Lieutenant General Roy Cimatu said 27 soldiers and 13 rebels were also wounded in the attacks. He said the army had counter attacked and was now in control of the situation.

Ex-leader

Jolo is the home of Mr Misuari, who for many years led the MNLF's campaign for autonomy for the Muslim minority in the south of this mainly Christian country.

Philippines ARMM governor Nur Misuari
Nur Misuari is not standing in ARMM elections
Mr Misuari, on behalf of the MNLF, signed the 1996 peace agreement with the government but this year, the MNLF removed him from its leadership.

Mr Misuari's whereabouts on Monday were not known.

The BBC correspondent in Manila, John McLean, says the rest of the MNLF is apparently abiding by the peace agreement.

However, the attacks on Jolo complicate the situation in the south.

Ongoing conflict

The government is engaged in delicate peace talks with another rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. But it continues to fight a third much smaller group, the Abu Sayyaf, which had links with Osama Bin Laden.

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo at WTC
Ground zero: Gloria Arroyo sees for herself the destruction in New York
A spokesman for Philippines President Gloria Arroyo, who is visiting the US, said she had ordered the "full force of the military" to be used against "whatever group launched this attack".

Mrs Arroyo is due to meet US President George W Bush later this week.

She recently ruled out bringing in US troops to tackle rebel groups but is hoping to return from Washington with substantial aid in the shape of military equipment and training.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Neil Ross
"President Arroyo is moving fast to stem the violence"
See also:

06 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Arroyo rejects US troops offer
18 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
'Big step' for Philippines peace talks
10 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
US bolsters Manila's rebel crackdown
14 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Low turnout mars Philippines vote
11 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Negotiating with the Abu Sayyaf
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