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Rebels take Manila official hostage
The Moro National Liberation Front wants its jailed founder released in exchange.
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2007 06:12 GMT
The  conflict between Islamic separatists and the government has killed over 120,000 people [AFP]
Muslim separatists in the southern Philippines are holding Manila's military chief, the head of the government's truce panel, a colonel and an undetermined number of soldiers hostage.
Military sources said on Saturday that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) refuses to let Brigadier-General Ben Dolorfino, the chief of military forces in the capital, and Ramon Santos, undersecretary for the peace process with the MNLF, leave their camp until its jailed founder was released.

Local media reported that more than 20 senior military, defence and government officials were being held at the MNLF's camp near Panamao town on Jolo island, 950 km south of Manila but senior military sources, who declined to be identified, would only confirm three hostages.

 

Dolorfino, a Muslim convert who had flown to Jolo for talks with the MNLF, told reporters by text message that he was safe.

   

"Sorry I can't comment. Just wait for the policymakers to speak," he said.

   

A military spokesman declined to comment.

 

The governor of Sulu, an archipelago that includes Jolo, said a local MNLF commander, Habier Malik, had refused to allow Dolorfino, Santos and 11 others to leave on Friday until their leader, Nur Misuari, was released from detention in Manila.

   

Misuari was jailed in 2002 for rebellion after the breakdown of a peace deal the MNLF signed with the government in 1996.

   

The Philippines is a largely Catholic country but has a sizeable Muslim minority in the south, where a decades-old conflict between Islamic separatists and government troops has killed over 120,000 people.

   

Dolorfino, former deputy commander of the Philippines's southern forces, is the highest-ranked Muslim in the armed forces.

Source:
Agencies
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