19 dead after rebel ambush

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AT least seven government militiamen and 12 Muslim guerrillas were killed in fighting early today in the southern Philippines, days before the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front was set to begin a ten-day unilateral ceasefire, the military said.

About 70 guerrillas ambushed a group of militiamen in Maguindanao province around 6am, killing seven and wounding two, said Major General Generoso Senga.

The rebels seized weapons and escaped. Troops backed by two M-520 attack helicopters then pursued the guerrillas, killing 12.

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