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4 Hostages Killed in Philippines

May 3, 2000

JOLO, Philippines (AP) _ Four hostages were killed today when government troops stumbled upon Muslim rebels trying to cross a stream with their captives in the southern Philippine province of Basilan, officials said.

Troops screamed at the hostages to get down, then opened fire. Fifteen other hostages were rescued.

Meanwhile, on neighboring Jolo island, rebel leaders who are holding 21 people hostage said two of their foreign captives died during a pre-dawn clash with troops. But military officials said they had no knowledge that any of the hostages _ including 10 foreign tourists _ had been killed. They said the claim may have been propaganda by the extremist Abu Sayyaf rebels.

The fighting came during a chaotic day of clashes and fatal bombings in the southern Philippines. They were the latest development in a standoff that began in March and intensified 10 days ago with the seizure of hostages from a Malaysian resort. The day ended with murky casualty reports and efforts by officials to sort out exactly what happened.

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