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Separatist rebels launches serial attacks in S. Philippines
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Separatist rebels staged a string of attacks in the restive southern Philippines, killing three civilians, taking three others hostage, planting improvised bombs, and firing rockets at government security forces positions, military officials said on Thursday.

The incidents occurred as the government warned that rebel groups such as the Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiyah and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), may launch attacks during the holiday season.

One of the attempted attacks was foiled Thursday morning after government troops recovered and defused an improvised bomb planted by suspected rebels along the highway in the town Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao Province.

"It's believed to be intended for our military convoy," said Col. Marlou Salazar, a local commander.

On Wednesday afternoon, around 300 MILF rebels occupied a Midtungok village in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, according to Maj. Randolph Cabangbang, a military spokesperson.

On same day, MILF rebels took hostage three civilians as they stormed a Gayunga village in Northern Kabuntalan town, Shariff Kabunsuan Province, said Lt. Colonel Julieto Ando, another military official.

"Two hours after that incident, they fired mortars towards our troop's position in the same village but luckily none of our soldiers were hurt," Ando said.

On Thursday night, three civilians were killed when MILF rebels raided the police detachment in a Midtungo village in Sultan Kudarat, bringing to nine the fatalities in the village.

Rebels had killed six civilians as they fired rockets and high powered assorted weapons as they arrived in the village.

The military has been hunting MILF commanders responsible for the series of attacks in the region.

Violence in Mindanao has escalated since August when the government failed to sign a territorial deal with the MILF. Hundreds have been killed and more than 600,000 displaced in the conflict.

The MILF has been fighting for a separate Islamic state since 1978. It signed a ceasefire in 2003 with the government, but skirmishes have been going on and off along with the peace talks between the two sides.

(Xinhua News Agency December 25, 2008)

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