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Gunmen Kill 10 Villagers in Southern Philippines

Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2001 at 04:29 AM CT

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (Reuters) - Gunmen believed to be from a Muslim bandit gang killed 10 villagers near the southern Philippine town of Naga, the military said on Saturday.

At least 20 armed men attacked a village outside Naga, 480 miles south of Manila, on Thursday night and opened fire at residents, apparently without provocation, said Lt. Col. Danilo Servando.

Two people were killed and three wounded, he told reporters.

Another four villagers and one of the bandits were killed when a second armed group came to the area after hearing gunshots, Servando said.

Four villagers taken hostage by the gunmen as they retreated were found killed the next day, he said.

Servando, speaking in the city of Zamboanga, 80 miles south of Naga, said most of the victims were Christians. He said the attackers were from Muslim bandit gangs which operate in the area.

The 75 million people in the Philippines are mostly Christian but the country's five million Muslims live mostly in the south of the country.

Some Muslim groups are fighting for an independent state in the area, which is impoverished, lawless and awash with weapons. Banditry and piracy are rife in the region.

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