LAMITAN, Philippines (AP) _ Army officials said they suspended efforts Sunday to rescue the 6-year-old stepdaughter of a British man from Muslim rebel captors to allow negotiations for her safe release.

Troops have encircled a forested area in Tuburan town, in the southern island province of Basilan, where the guerrillas are holding April Grant, Army Maj. Daniel Lucero said.

Four suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels abducted Grant on Wednesday from her home in Basilan. Her Filipino mother, Nina Rasul Grant, said they demanded $2,000.

The Abu Sayyaf rebels have turned over the kidnapped child to guerrillas belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a larger Muslim rebel group fighting for an independent Islamic nation in the southern Philippines, Lucero said.

``There are negotiations going on with the MILF, and we will try our best to get the girl back without any payment of ransom,'' Lucero told reporters in an army base in Basilan's Lamitan town.

Basilan is about 550 miles south of Manila.

The mother said the Abu Sayyaf abductors threatened to kill the child if the authorities learned of the kidnapping. Lucero said their information indicated the child was still alive.

He said army officers were negotiating with the MILF rebels.

Grant's mother is married to a Briton, Douglas Grant, who is in Scotland.

The Abu Sayyaf carried out a series of kidnappings of scores of foreigners and Asians last year. All but two of them, an American and a Filipino, have been freed, reportedly for huge ransoms.

The military began massive assaults against the Abu Sayyaf rebels in September in Jolo to rescue the remaining hostages and neutralize the guerrilla group.

The MILF has more men and stronger influence in many areas of southern Mindanao region, homeland of the country's Muslim minority.