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Philippines blames bandits for killing 6 villagers

February 23, 2012
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MANILA, Philippines—Gunmen in a lawless southern Philippine region swooped down on a village and killed six residents in an attack that officials said Friday was retaliation for the death of a bandit leader.

Nine other people were wounded, including three young children, when the gunmen strafed houses in coastal Zamboanga del Sur province on Thursday, said Police Director Felicisimo Khu.

The attackers suspected the villagers provided information that led police earlier this month to a suspected bandit leader, Sammang Andi, Khu said. Andi was killed in a shootout.

"The two brothers allegedly led the attack," he said.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said there were 10 gunmen who took part in the attack. He said the victims were related to a government militiaman who had guided police in the February shootout.

Several armed groups operate in the Zamboanga peninsula, including Muslim rebels who have been fighting for self-rule in the predominantly Christian nation for decades. Among them are groups that often turn to banditry, extortion and ransom kidnappings for survival and elude authorities by hiding in forests and on nearby islands.

A military offensive last year overran a guerrilla camp in a neighboring province but most of the fighters escaped.

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