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Philippine Troops Shell Jolo Guerrilla Hideouts - 2002-09-08

The Philippine military has shelled guerrilla hideouts in the country's south, as troops press an attack that has left at least 22 people dead.

The military says it is closing in on suspected Muslim guerrilla bands as they flee into the jungle on Jolo island. The island is about 1,000 kilometers south of Manila.

The guerrillas are thought to be members of the Abu Sayyaf, which claims to be fighting for a Muslim state in the southern Philippines, but is best known for kidnappings and murders. Guerrilla bands are holding seven hostages, including three Indonesian sailors taken off a tugboat in June and four Christian women kidnapped last month. The kidnappers beheaded two men snatched with the women.

The armed forces escalated the attacks against guerrilla hideouts Friday. Since then, the army says eight soldiers have been killed and 14 rebels have died. More than 4,000 soldiers are hunting a few hundred rebels. The rebels apparently have broken into smaller groups to make it easier to escape into the mountainous jungles of Jolo.

The U.S. military recently ended a six month anti-terrorism exercise with the Philippine armed forces in nearby Basilan island. A new round of training with American soldiers is to begin in a few months.