Philippines    REBELS TAKES HOSTAGES AT CATHOLIC SCHOOLS
Muslim rebels took more than 50 people hostage on Monday, including dozens of students and a priest at two Catholic high schools.
   The rebels took 47 hostages from a school in a town on Basilan island in the southern Philippines and 10 more from another school before fleeing for the forest, said a military spokesman. "Twenty hostages were released later. Thirty-seven are still being held," said Col. Hilario Atendido.
   The kidnappings followed a week of fighting between government troops and rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in a region north of Basilan. Atendido said the attack on first school was carried out by the Abu Sayyaf group while suspected MILF rebels were involved in the second raid.
   Muslim rebels groups are fighting to establish an Islamic state in the southern Philippines. Although MILF has held peace talks with the government, Abu Sayyaf has shunned negotiations. The military spokesman said he believed the kidnappings were a diversion to take attention away from the fighting to the north.
   
CWN
22/3/00

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