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Death Toll In Grenade Attack Stands At 13, Search for Renegades

January 10, 1989

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Two grenades were hurled into a crowd attending a basketball award ceremony in the southern Philippines, and the military said Tuesday the toll stood at 13 dead and up to 89 injured.

Authorities do not know who was responsible for the Sunday night attack at a basketball court in Esperanza, a town in the Mindanao island province of Sultan Kudarat about 600 miles south of Manila, said Lt. Anselmo Cabingan, a military spokesman.

About 1,000 people, many of them children, were attending the basketball tournament when the attack took place, said Sgt. Joven Astrero of the operations section of the Philippine Constabulary in Cotabato City, about 40 miles west of Esperanza.

Astrero said the tournament had just ended and the town mayor, Romulo Latog Sr., was awarding trophies when the blasts occurred. Latog and his son, Romulo Jr., were among the injured, Astrero said.

The government-run Philippines News Agency agency said six of the dead were children under 9 years of age.

Such attacks are not uncommon in remote, often lawless areas of the southern Philippines.

In another development, the military launched a massive search for Rizal Alih, leader of Moslem policemen who seized a military camp in Zamboanga City and killed a general, after officers said he may have escaped a fierce government counterattack Saturday.

The military launched attacks after the policemen, who took over the regional headquarters of the Philippine Constabulary last Thursday, killed Brig. Gen. Eduardo Batalla and his chief of staff, Col. Romeo Abendan, who were taken hostage.

″We cannot at this time confirm or deny that Alih has escaped and is presently alive,″ military spokesman Col. Oscar Florendo said.

At least 21 people were killed during two days of fighting before the camp was recaptured. Most of the bodies were burned beyond recognition when rocket- firing helicopters blasted the headquarters building Saturday.

Rose Laurente, a major’s wife, said Alih held her and eight other companions hostage briefly, one day after troops recaptured the camp.

Military spokesman Col. Anthony Elias disputed the woman’s statement, saying she was a relative of Alih.

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