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At Least 100 Philippine Rebels Killed in Latest Military Offensive

Philippine officials say more than 90 Muslim rebels have surrendered, and at least 100 have died during the military's latest offensive.

Presidential aides say the guerrillas and their field commanders surrendered in the southern Philippine city of Iligan earlier this week.

The Philippine Army began a push against the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front last Saturday. The government called off peace talks after blaming the Front for a series of attacks that have killed nearly 200 civilians this year.

Philippine Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes says the operation has eliminated what he describes as a "terrorist cell" in the town of Munai in the southern province of Lanao del Norte.

Lieutenant Colonel Renoir Pascua, spokesman for the military's southern command, says those who surrendered did so because of the heavy government offensive, which has killed more than 118 rebels.

But Moro Islamic Liberation Front spokesman Eid Kabalu denies the death toll reports. He also accuses the government of stage managing the surrender, saying those who gave up were members of a separate group, the Moro National Liberation Front, which has had a ceasefire with the government since 1996.

"There is no truth about there being members of the MILF; claiming to be members of the MILF," he said. "They are not, they are considered fake and as far as the MILF is concerned they are opportunists."

Mr. Kabalu says the surrender was part of the Philippine military's psychological war against the rebels. He also says just six guerillas have been killed and more than 10 injured.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has been fighting for three decades to create a separate Muslim state in the largely Roman Catholic Philippine archipelago.