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Archive for Sunday, July 15, 2001

Philippine government says crackdown on Muslim extremists continues

July 15, 2001

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— The Philippine government promised Saturday to tighten its crackdown on the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf, but some officials questioned whether suspects' rights were being trampled.

The military and police say 40 people have been taken into custody on three islands, including seven from the village of the group's late founder.

"This is trying to deliver the message that if you are supportive of the Abu Sayyaf ... then the full force of the law will be applied to you," said Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered the crackdown Friday and said the government was increasingly focused on wiping out the Muslim extremists while still trying to rescue their hostages.

"This is going to be a major, top-level, massive effort," Arroyo said, adding it was aimed at "all of the hostage-takers and all of their conspirators and all of their accomplices."

Chief state prosecutor Jovencito Zuno said other prosecutors were on hand to assist in filing charges against those arrested. By law, most have to be charged within 36 hours or released.

Thousands of troops have been chasing the rebels since shortly after the Abu Sayyaf raided a tourist resort May 27, taking 20 hostages, including three Americans, two of whom, Martin and Gracia Burnham, are from Wichita, Kan. The rebels claim they have beheaded one of the Americans, but his body has not been found.

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