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Believed rescue attempt turns violent in the Philippines, with at least 21 dead

A seeming attempt to rescue foreigners held by militants in the Philippines, among them Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani, leaves many dead.

Philippines rebels truceEnlarge
This photo taken on October 15, 2012 shows members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels raising their rifles during a ceremony at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao province on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao to coincide with the signing of an accord between the government and rebels' representatives in the Philippines capital city of Manila. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

At least 21 people have been killed in the Philippines as pro-government militants clashed with Islamist rebels in an apparent attempt to rescue several foreign hostages, among them the Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani, reported the Associated Press

Atyani, a prominent TV journalist who interviwed Osama bin Laden prior to the 9/11 attacks, was kidnapped in June, said Reuters.

Local police chief Antonio Freyra said fighters with the government-allied Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on Monday launched an assalt on Jolo island, where Al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militants are believed holding several foreigners captive, according to Reuters

The attack sparked clashes that killed at least 21 people, officials said, reported AP

A MNFL leader also told AP Abu Sayyaf militants refused to release the foreign captives. Two Filipino hostages were freed on Saturday, reported Reuters, both of whom AP said had worked for "veteran" reporter Atyani. 

Cameraman Ramel Vela and audio technician Roland Letriro, who travelled with the Jordanian journalist and were held for eight months, told police Atyani was in the country to shoot a documentary in the south. They last saw him in Sulu, a mostly Muslim province south of Manila, said AP

"We have no information on the fate of the Jordanian journalist," Freyra told Reuters.

Army spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Burgos said the military did not participate in the MNFL-led offensive but did help protect locals fleeing the violence, according to Reuters.

The MNFL has cooperated with the government since reaching an agreement protecting the group's autonomy, said AP

Several other Europeans are being held by militants, but there were conflicting reports as to their exact number and countries of origin. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/philippines/130204/believed-rescue-attempt-turns-violent-the-phil