Philippine rebels escape from school after hostages freed

KIDAPAWAN, Philippines — Muslim rebels fled after freeing dozens of hostages from a school in a southern Philippine village on Wednesday and were being pursued by army troops, as a daylong crisis eased in in the volatile region, officials said.

Gunmen from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters prepared to attack troop outposts but were repelled by government forces early Wednesday, prompting them to seize villagers as human shields in Malagakit village in North Cotabato province, military officials said.

At least four rebels were killed and two government militiamen were wounded in the fighting, which caused nearly 1,000 villagers in Malagakit and two nearby villages to flee to safety, the officials said.


The retreating gunmen, estimated by the military and police to number from 200 to 300, later occupied a Malagakit grade school building, where they sporadically traded shots with troops up to nightfall, said local army spokesman Captain Arvin Encinas.

During a lull, 31 people, including a dozen children, were allowed to dash to freedom to escape from the school.