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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 June, 2003, 18:42 GMT 19:42 UK
Philippine rebels extend ceasefire
Philippine troops
The army wants to flush out the 'terrorists' among the MILF rebels
Muslim separatist rebels in the southern Philippines say they are extending their ceasefire in the region by a further 10 days.

The ceasefire was due to end at midnight on Wednesday (1600 GMT), but the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said it had extended the deadline following a request by the Malaysian Government, which often mediates between the rebels and Manila.

The Philippine military's vice chief of staff, Lieutenant General Rodolfo Garcia, welcomed the ceasefire extension as a "positive move".

But he said the government still wanted a "permanent ceasefire... that would ensure the continuation of the peace talks".

The original 10-day ceasefire began on 2 June, after the military launched a series of intense aerial and artillery attacks to hunt down what President Gloria Arroyo termed "terrorist cells".

The government has blamed the MILF for a spate of recent bomb attacks on the southern island of Mindanao, and has repeatedly asked the rebels to hand over those responsible.

On Tuesday Ms Arroyo warned that peace was not possible if one side was "contaminated with the stigma of terrorism".

But the MILF denies involvement in the attacks, and says it called the original ceasefire to give peace talks a chance to resume.

The Manila Government, however, dismissed the gesture as a "tactical move" to allow the rebels to regroup during the on-going military offensive.

Sporadic fighting has continued during the ceasefire, but at a lower level than previously.

The MILF has been fighting for an Islamic state in the southern Philippines since 1978.

Attacks blamed on the rebels have killed at least 100 people this year, while about 60 guerrillas have died in the recent fighting, according to the army.

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