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Tuesday, 30 April, 2002, 06:48 GMT 07:48 UK
Philippine 'rebels' killed in clash
Philippine troops
Philippine troops are fighting the separatist rebels
Four suspected Muslim rebels have been killed in a shoot-out with police in the southern Philippines.

Philippine police said the men, thought to be linked to the Islamic separatist movement, Abu Sayyaf, were part of a group which attacked a police patrol on the eastern coast of General Santos.

Map of Philippines
Hours earlier, a solider was wounded in a gun battle with suspected rebels near Zamboanga city, about 400 kilometres (250 miles) west of General Santos.

The clashes came days after 15 people were killed and scores more were wounded in a series of bomb attacks in the city, blamed on the rebel movement.

Arsenal of weapons

Regional police chief Bartolome Baluyot said up to 15 men in two speed boats opened fire on the police patrol after being ordered to stop.

"When they were about 25 metres (82 feet) away, we fired warning shots.

"Instead of signalling that they were not the enemy, they rained gunfire and M-203 grenades on us. So I ordered, 'fire'," he said.

Senior Superintendent Baluyot said four of the attackers were shot dead by police and the others escaped.

Police inspect bomb damage
The Abu Sayyaf is thought to be behind a recent bomb attack

He said officers recovered two rifles, a grenade launcher, two handguns, a telescope, and two extortion letters intended for local businesses.

The letters were signed by Abu Muslim al-Ghazi, who earlier claimed responsibility on behalf of the Abu Sayyaf for the triple bombing in the city on 21 April.

The movement has carried out a string of kidnappings and has been linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network.

More than 1,000 US troops are training Philippine forces in the fight against Abu Sayyaf on Basilan island, 350 kilometres (215 miles) west of General Santos.

The rebels say they are fighting for an independent Islamic state in the south of the predominantly Christian country.

See also:

20 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
US troops arrive on hostage island
19 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
South-East Asia's terror clampdown
18 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
US troops arrive in Basilan
14 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
US troops join war on Abu Sayyaf
11 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Negotiating with the Abu Sayyaf
01 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine troops battle kidnappers
22 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Mayor shot dead in northern Philippines
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