Philippine rebels surrender

Associated Press

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – More than 600 Muslim rebels, including a commander, surrendered Thursday in a ceremony led by Philippine President Joseph Estrada.

Estrada urged the remaining guerrillas to resume peace talks with the government. The talks were suspended June 30.

“We must resolve our differences through peaceful means because fighting among ourselves will never bring any good to either one of us,” he said.

Estrada stood on a grandstand as he led the 609 former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, most still wearing camouflage uniforms with rebel insignias, in pledging allegiance to the government. In front of the stage was a long table with more than 400 firearms that belonged to the rebels.

The surrendering guerrillas were led by Malupandi “Commander Lupay” Cosain, a former provincial vice mayor who joined the Muslim insurgency.

Estrada suspended peace talks with the Moro front after the guerrillas refused to abandon their secessionist goal, stop attacks and lay down their arms.

The Moro group is the larger of two groups fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines. The other is the Abu Sayyaf, the group responsible for a spate of hostage takings since April.

Meanwhile, Philippine troops have begun searching neighboring islands for five hostages and their Muslim rebel captors who have not been seen for more than a week on Jolo island, officials said.

The military had previously said it believed the hostages – an American, three Malaysians and a Filipino – were still on Jolo. It has tried to prevent the escape of the Abu Sayyaf rebels with a naval blockade and seizure of private boats.

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