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Philippine troop arrest 36 suspected Muslim rebels

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October 16, 2000 


ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AP) - Philippine troops arrested 36 people believed to be members or supporters of a Muslim rebel group that is holding four hostages, including an American, an official said Sunday.

Soldiers found no hostages Saturday in the raid on a house in Bulangsi village in Luuk town in Jolo, said regional military spokesman army Col. Hilario Atendido.

They did find three rifles, he said. The arrested included seven children.

All 36 were believed to be either members or sympathizers of the Abu Sayyaf, which has been blamed for a series of recent kidnappings, including the abduction of 21 Europeans and Asians from a Malaysian resort last April, Atendido said.

The suspects were being investigated in a marine camp in Jolo, he said.

Many of the hostages seized by Abu Sayyaf rebels have been freed after the payment of more than dlrs 15 million by Libya and Malaysia, negotiators say.

Six other Abu Sayyaf guerrillas surrendered Saturday to the military in Jolo, where government troops launched a massive assault last month to rescue hostages - three Malaysians, an American and a Filipino - still in rebel custody.

More than 30 rebels have surrendered to the military in recent days and many more are expected to give up due to battle fatigue, hunger and lack of ammunition, officials said.

The military says at least 129 rebels have been killed since the assault was launched Sept. 16. Five soldiers and three militiamen have been killed and 16 soldiers injured in the attack in Jolo, about 940 kilometers (580 miles) south of Manila.

The rebels say they are fighting for a separate Islamic state in the southern Philippines, but the government regards them as bandits.

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