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Monday, 25 March, 2002, 11:32 GMT
Philippines rejects rebel deal
Philippines troops, Basilan island
Philippine troops are receiving US support in the fight
Muslim rebels have asked the Philippines military for a ceasefire and safe passage for a wounded leader in exchange for a Filipino hostage, the military has said.

The military rejected the demand and called on the Abu Sayyaf rebels to surrender.

There will be no ceasefire

General Roy Cimatu, armed forces chief
The Abu Sayyaf group is holding three hostages on the southern Philippines island of Basilan, including US Christian missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham.

The Philippines has stepped up its offensive against the rebels and has been receiving military training from US special forces on the island.

The US says the Abu Sayyaf has links with the al-Qaeda network, which it blames for the 11 September attacks in New York and Washington.

Gun battle

Six-year-old Lawrence William shows the only picture of his mother Ediborah Yap, second from right in picture with fellow nurses, in their house in Lamitan town, Basilan island
Ediborah Yap, second from right in photo, was captured in a raid on Lamitan town

This was the Abu Sayyaf's first ceasefire call since seizing dozens of hostages in a series of raids last year. Some hostages were killed, some escaped, and others were released, reportedly for ransoms.

The group is now holding just three people - the Burnhams and a Filipino nurse Ediborah Yap.

Under the deal rejected by the military, the rebels offered to release Ms Yap in return for a ceasefire. Armed forces chief General Roy Cimatu said Abu Sayyaf relatives had sent messages that the group wanted a ceasefire so that their wounded commander Bakal Hapilon could be treated.

But General Cimatu instead called on the rebels to release all the hostages.

Martin and Gracia Burnham
The Burnhams are hidden somewhere in the jungle
"Release all three hostages and the military will agree that Bakal and all other Abu Sayyaf wounded be treated at southern command hospital by military doctors," he said.

"But there will be no ceasefire."

Bakal Hapilon was said to be critically wounded in a gun battle on Saturday. Five other rebels were killed.

More than 600 US soldiers are in the southern Philippines to help train the army to fight the Abu Sayyaf, though they have not been taking part in armed combat.

However, officials said US spy planes have been providing intelligence that has led to increased clashes between Philippines troops and the rebels.

See also:

19 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Eyewitness: Philippines' lawless island
07 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
US hostages shown on Philippines TV
06 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines mayor takes on rebels
19 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine TV shows beheading video
02 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
US military faces Philippines challenge
17 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
US troops begin Philippine exercises
06 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Guide to Philippines conflict
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