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The BBC's Jim Fish
"The situation in the southern Philippines remains precarious"
 real 28k

Philippine Defence Minister Orlando Mercado
"What we have are four bodies that we have recovered"
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Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
Fears for Philippines hostages
Philippine Army
Philippine Army scouts unload new supplies on Jolo
Islamic rebels say two of the hostages they are holding in the southern Philippines have died during a clash with government forces.

A rebel leader with the Abu Sayyaf group told local radio that a male captive had been accidentally shot and a woman hostage had died of a heart attack.

All of the hostages are alright

Provincial Governor Abdusakur Tan
Philippines Government officials initially confirmed the deaths to foreign diplomats, but later the governor of Sulu province, Abdusakur Tan, denied anyone had died. He did not say how he had received the information.

Elsewhere, on the main southern island of Mindanao, four bombs exploded in the centre the predominantly Christian town of General Santos, killing at least four people.

The explosions came after another Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), ordered an all-out counter-attack against government troops shortly after pulling out of peace talks.

Earlier, MILF guerrillas launched a grenade attack on the airport at Cotabato about 200km (125 miles) to the northwest of General Santos, taking about 100 people hostage.


An Abu Sayyaf leader later repeated the claim that two hostages were dead, and warned that the rebels would proceed with a previous threat to behead two captives if the military did not withdraw.

Commander Robot apologised to their families and said the deaths were not the rebels' doing.

The Philippine army has rejected rebel demands to pull back from around the rebel hideout on Jolo Island, and officials said the report of the deaths might be a tactic to force the military to lift its siege.

The rebels are holding 21 people, including 10 foreign tourists, after capturing them from a Malaysian diving resort more than a week ago.

The nationality and identity of those reported dead was not given by their kidnappers.

The kidnappers can't get much food, much water because the camp is surrounded by the Philippine army

French hostage Stephane Loisy
On Tuesday, the guerrillas clashed with Philippine army soldiers, killing one and injuring four others.

Ten tourists from Europe, South Africa, and Lebanon, and resort workers from Malaysia and the Philippines are among those taken.

French hostage Sonia Wendling looked gaunt and tired
Television pictures have showed the captives, many of them suffering from diarrhoea and urinary tract infections, speaking of worsening conditions.

They appealed to the Philippine Government to order troops back and let the kidnappers to obtain more food for them.

Abu Sayyaf is the smaller of two groups fighting for a separate Islamic state in the impoverished Mindanao region of the southern Philippines.

The 1,000-member guerrilla group have in the past kidnapped foreign missionaries and kept them in captivity for months at a time, both for cash and political profit.

Children found

Abu Sayyaf
Want troops to move away before they make demands
Accused with others of trying to start a religious war
Alleged links with Islamic leader, Osama bin Laden

Three school children among a separate group of 27 hostages held by Abu Sayyaf on neighbouring Basilan island have been found alive, Philippine Defence Secretary Orlando Mercado said.

He said the children had been found near the town of Lantawan after over 40 days in captivity, but he had no further details of whether they were rescued or released.

He said he expected more to be found soon.

Earlier, rebel spokesman Abu Ahmad told local radio that the group "wanted to concentrate on the negotiations for the other hostages" on Jolo.

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See also:

03 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines bomb kills four
01 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Hostage drama highlights bitter conflict
01 May 00 | Media reports
Separatists warn of 'all-out war'
02 May 00 | Media reports
Separatist clashes intensify in Mindanao
26 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Dangerous waters
02 May 00 | World
Analysis: How hostages cope
19 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
'Sword of God' at war
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