Muslim rebels abduct students in Philippines

21 March 2000 (Newsroom) -- Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines are
holding hostage 26 people from a Catholic school, according to the
Missionary Service News Agency (MISNA), a Catholic group. A pregnant
teacher, whose name has not been disclosed, reportedly died in the attack on
Monday, MISNA said.

School director Father Roel Gallardo, principal Reynaldo Rubio, five
teachers, and 20 students are being held by members of the Al Haratul
Islamiya rebel group in the village of Tumahubong in southern Basilan
province. According to news reports, the Catholics were among 58 people that
the rebels abducted on Monday as they fled government troops after an attack
on an army outpost.

Twenty students from the Catholic school, run by the Claretian Missionary
order, were released Monday. Another dozen people were abducted from a local
high school and later released.

According to an army officer the rebels apparently seized the students and
teachers to use them as "human shields'' against pursuing soldiers, news
reports said. The Al Haratul Islamiya rebel group, once known as "Abu
Sayyaf," is an ally of a larger group that also is fighting to establish a
Muslim state in the region, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The Al Haratul Islamiya guerillas have refused to negotiate for release of
the hostages, but have asked authorities for 200 sacks of rice, and for
medicine and doctors. The group has been blamed for frequent attacks against
Christians in the southern Philippines.


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