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The BBC's John McLean in Manila
"It is a big operation that may take days to complete"
 real 28k

Sunday, 23 April, 2000, 08:57 GMT 09:57 UK
Philippine army 'to crush' rebels
Philippine soldiers
The Philippine army attacked the camp on Saturday
The Philippine army says it is determined to crush the Muslim extremist group which is holding about 30 hostages at a camp on the southern island of Basilan.

The army attacked the camp on Saturday and says that three soldiers and at least four of the Abu Sayyaf Muslim group have been killed - a report denied by the extremists.

The armed forces chief, General Angelo Reyes, said the army would finish what it had started.

Abu Sayyaf, says it has already beheaded two of the hostages and has threatened to kill others.


 Abu Sayyaf
The Abu Sayyaf said they beheaded two hostages
Its demands include the release of a Muslim extremist, Ramzi Yousef, who is serving a prison sentence in the United States in connection with the bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York in 1993.

The demands were rejected by the Philippine Government and by the US Embassy.

Attack

An Abu Sayyaf rebel spokesman said two hostages, including a child, were injured in the shelling of the rebel camp.

Military officials said they could not confirm the report.

The Philippine military said air force helicopters were firing rockets at outlying rebel camps to allow ground troops to penetrate the main camp where most of the hostages are believed to be held.

Navy ships have also been deployed to prevent the rebels from escaping and receiving reinforcements from comrades in nearby provinces.

Abu Sayyaf is a minor Muslim separatist guerrilla group.

Its activities are usually limited to the small southern island of Basilan.

The hostages were abducted last month after an unsuccessful Abu Sayyaf raid on a Basilan military outpost.

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See also:

21 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines shoot-out with Muslim rebels
19 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Muslim rebels behead two hostages
19 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
"Sword of God" at war
21 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines grenade attack
20 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines peace talks off
23 Feb 99 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine dream of Islamic state
08 Feb 99 | Asia-Pacific
Muslim rebels insist on independence
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