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Three Hostages Rescued in Philippines - 2001-08-11

Philippine military troops have rescued three more hostages held by Muslim rebels. The military has come under increasing pressure to find remaining hostages.

Three plantation workers, who were kidnapped two months ago, were rescued late Friday, following a series of clashes between Philippine government troops and the Abu Sayyaf rebels on southern Basilan island. The three men - all from the same family - were among 15 plantation workers seized by the Abu Sayyaf last June. Colonel Hermogenes Esperon, head of the military unit pursuing the rebels, said Philippine troops rescued the three men after pursuing a group of about 40 Abu Sayyaf rebels seen with a group of hostages. He said two rebels were captured in the fighting.

The rebels are believed to still be holding about 18 hostages, including at least two Americans, who were among a group of people seized in May from a beach resort on the southwestern island of Palawan. The rebels claim to have killed a third American, but no body has been found.

Last week, the rebels abducted more than 30 people from two predominantly Catholic villages. Ten of them were beheaded, 13 were rescued by soldiers, and the rest were freed.

About five-thousand troops have been hunting the Abu Sayyaf since the abductions in May. There is growing criticism of the military's inability to crush the rebel group. On Friday, authorities said they would investigate allegations that some members of the military had aided the rebels. The military denies such allegations.