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Philippine Troops Storm Garrison : Dissident Muslims Kill General Who Was Held Hostage

Associated Press

Troops backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers today stormed a military garrison after Muslim dissidents killed a general they were holding hostage, officials said.

A hospital near the garrison said at least five people were wounded. A wounded soldier reported numerous dead, and city Police Chief Lt. Col. Jovencio Gongora said several bodies were still inside the compound.

Gongora said he suspended the assault at dark. Bodies could not be recovered because some dissident Muslims were believed still on the grounds.

Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos told reporters in Manila the attack began after the military learned that the regional constabulary commander, Brig. Gen. Eduardo Batalla, had been shot and killed by a renegade Muslim policeman.

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One of the wounded, Staff Sgt. Rosendo Novelenio, told reporters that there were “many dead” on the second floor of the headquarters building where Batalla and his chief of staff, Col. Romeo Abendan, had been held. There was no word on Abendan’s fate.

The two were taken hostage Thursday after Batalla ordered Muslim policemen to surrender their weapons and face murder charges in a 1984 incident.

House Speaker Ramon Mitra said the military decided to storm the garrison after the policemen’s leader, Rizal Alih, rejected Mitra’s last offer. Mitra had asked to see Batalla and verify he was alive.

Officials said 30 to 40 armed men, some of whom may have been Muslim soldiers, apparently slipped into the headquarters building overnight to join Alih and an estimated 15 followers. The captors demanded to be flown to Siasi Island, 120 miles to the southwest.

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Mitra said Alih reneged on an overnight deal to end the dispute in exchange for a safe passage to Palawan Island, where he would surrender to military police.


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