Philippines    HOSTAGE PRIEST URGES PHILIPPINES TO STOP BOMBING
A Philippine radio station on Tuesday broadcast an appeal from a Catholic priest, one of 27 hostages being held by Islamic guerrillas, for the military to stop bombing the rebel hideout.
   Fr Ruel Gallardo in an interview with local radio station DXXX said the attacks would kill the captives, which include 22 children and who have been held for five weeks by fundamentalist Abu Sayyaf rebels on the southern island of Basilan.
   ``We are all scared, we will die from the bombings,'' he said. ``If you want us to be released, let us do it peacefully through negotiations, not through bombings. It is not only bullets that will kill us but also terror.''
   He urged the government to agree to the rebel demands, which include the release of three Islamic militants jailed in the United States.
   ``Whatever the group's demands are, give it to them,'' Gallardo said. ``Withdrawal of the military is the number one need right now if you want to save our lives.''
   It was unclear if the guerrillas had scripted the priest's comments, which came as the military began its fourth day of air and ground assaults on the mountain where the rebels are holding their hostages.
   
Reuters
25/4/00

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