Muslim rebels surrender

Associated Press

MARAWI, Philippines – Dozens of former Muslim separatist rebels surrendered Thursday after a clash and a 10-hour standoff in the southern Philippines that left at least four people dead.

The gunmen from the Moro National Liberation Front at one point took hostages in the city of Marawi, but all were soon freed or escaped, said Col. Antonio Seville, a spokesman for the Army’s 401st Infantry Brigade.

Earlier, both Seville and Abdurahman Jamasali, a rebel leader, reported 10 people had been killed. However, authorities in Marawi said only two gunmen and two civilians died.

The clash began when soldiers raided several houses in Marawi to confiscate weapons from suspected former members of the rebel group, Seville said. They came under fire, and that gunbattle sparked a fire that burned two houses and the second floor of a building at the nearby Marawi market.

The gunmen occupied a building filled with textile stalls near the market, and several blocks were evacuated in the heart of the city.

The intense firefight slowed to sporadic shots and grenade bursts by midday, and by evening 37 gunmen surrendered following an intense grenade barrage from soldiers. Fifteen minutes later, the group’s leader, Metamora Siddique, also gave up.

Jamasali, who heads a cease-fire monitoring group set up under a 1996 peace agreement between the rebel group and the government, said his group would protest the raid.

“The raid was a serious violation of the 1996 peace accord. They should have coordinated with the MNLF,” Jamasali said.

Under the peace accord, the Moro National Liberation Front dropped its goal of secession and accepted limited autonomy.

The agreement ended about 25 years of armed insurgency in the southern Mindanao region that has killed 120,000 people. However, most former guerrillas still hold weapons, and sporadic clashes with the military and police still erupt.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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