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13 Hostages Rescued in Philippines Military Raid - 2001-08-05

Philippine soldiers rescued 13 hostages, including at least three children, during a dawn raid on a Muslim rebel camp early Sunday on the southern island of Basilan. 10 other captives have been found beheaded over the past few days.

A military spokesman says the rescued hostages were abandoned by the rebels after the army raided a guerrilla camp in the mountain range of Basilan island during the night.

The rescued captives were among more than 30 Christian villagers seized by rebels Thursday.

The rebels had earlier released 11 of the hostages, and demanded that the government stop its offensive against the Abu Sayyaf.

The military has about 5,000 troops on Basilan, attempting to capture the leaders of the rebel group and to rescue remaining hostages. The Abu Sayyaf is holding a separate group of about 20 hostages, who were seized in May from a beach resort. The rebels claim to have beheaded one of three Americans kidnapped at that time, but his body has never been found.

The Abu Sayyaf rebels are thought to number about 1100 fighters. They claim they are fighting for an independent Muslim state in the southern Philippines. But the Philippine government refuses to recognize the Abu Sayyaf as a legitimate representative of the Muslim community, and calls the group bandits engaged in kidnap for ransom activities.