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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 November, 2004, 09:33 GMT
Air raids hit Philippines rebels
Up to 10 people have been killed in air strikes on rebels on the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines.

Regional military chief Maj Gen Raul Relano said the attack was a simple police action against the Abu Sayyaf group and kidnapping gangs in the area.

He said the action did not violate a truce with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the main separatist group in southern Philippines.

But a MILF spokesman said the attack had hit a group of its fighters.

'Simple police operation'

Four helicopters and two airplanes were used in Friday's attack.

Gen Rellano said it had targeted a meeting of Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah rebels.

The attack was a simple police action to neutralise the Abu Sayyaf and kidnap-for-ransom gangs in the area
Maj Gen Raul Relano
"The air strikes were not directed against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front," Gen Rellano said in a radio interview.

"The attack was a simple police action to neutralise the Abu Sayyaf and kidnap-for-ransom gangs in the area."

But MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said the Philippines army was using the Abu Sayyaf as a "convenient excuse" to hit MILF, though he said his group would continue with the peace process.

We will not allow minor incidents to waste the gains we have worked for under the peace process
MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu
"We will raise this issue in the ceasefire panel meeting next week," he told Reuters news agency.

He said the army had informed the rebels of the attack just as the bomb runs neared their end.

The MILF has been fighting for decades for an Islamic state on Mindanao.

The Abu Sayyaf group, said to have links with al-Qaeda, has been weakened recently.

But the rebels remain active, despite frequent operations by Philippine troops trained and advised by elite US soldiers.

Guide to the Philippines conflict
30 Mar 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Abu Sayyaf men sentenced to death
13 Aug 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: The Philippines
21 Dec 03 |  Country profiles
Manila signs ceasefire with MILF
18 Jul 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Mindanao's Muslim refugees
03 Jun 03 |  Asia-Pacific

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