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RAMOS SAYS COUP ATTEMPT BY REBEL SOLDIERS CRUSHED

SHARE RAMOS SAYS COUP ATTEMPT BY REBEL SOLDIERS CRUSHED

Army rebels trying to overthrow President Corazon Aquino smashed through defenses and seized parts of the Philippine military headquarters camp Sunday, and fighting erupted around Manila's Makati financial district.

Dozens of combatants were reported killed in fierce fighting through the night, and doctors treating casualties from Makati said five people were killed and dozens wounded there.The fighting broke out in the country's business capital after Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos ordered government troops to flush out mutineers deployed atop high-rise buildings and around supermarkets and international hotels.

Aquino said earlier she had rejected a cease-fire proposal from rebel leaders trying to depose her and declared, "What they started, I will end."

Speaking in a national radio broadcast, she said, "Our counterattacking forces have conveyed my answer. I reject their proposal."

Rebel units, backed by tanks, also battled for control of the military headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo. Government forces counterattacked with helicopter gunships and F-5 jets to pound their positions.

Aquino, facing the sixth and bloodiest coup attempt against her since she came to power in 1986, said government forces have captured the rebel leader commanding the assault on Camp Aguinaldo, where dozens of combatants were reportedly killed in fierce fighting during the night.

"I am at the palace and I will remain here, even if the rebels say they will pound the palace to dust," the president said. She accused rebel marine units of using civilians as human shields and of sowing terror in the Makati business district where rebel gunfire erupted around three international hotels.

Radio news reports said volleys of mortar and artillery fire echoed from inside the camp and rebel positions outside in the Libis residential district and the Mormon Temple.

"Church officials in Salt Lake City are in frequent contact with our leaders in the Philippines," said Bruce L. Olsen, managing director of public communications for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "So far as we have been able to determine, all our missionaries and church personnel are safe. We are concerned about the developments and are watching them closely."

The Philippine military said at least 31 rebels were reported killed as government fighter jets and helicopter gunships pounded their positions, knocking out a rebel tank used to smash through the perimeter gate.

Maj. Gen. Ramon Montano, defending the nearby Philippine Constabulary headquarters at Camp Crame, said that pro-Aquino forces suffered 12 dead and more than 100 wounded in the rebel attack on Aguinaldo.

At least 95 people have been killed and more than 250 wounded, many of them civilians, in the three-day coup attempt by army units who accuse Aquino of tolerating corruption, being too soft on communists and mismanaging the government.

"We only waited for daybreak so that we can use our air force and our armored units on the ground," said Aquino, who is facing the most serious attempt yet to oust her.

Aquino attended early morning Mass with her family, and the archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jaime Sin, appealed to the rebels to surrender. Reporters with Aquino said the 56-year-old president appeared to be in a cheerful mood, bantering with her children.

The mutineers said the homes of Americans in Manila would become targets if U.S. forces joined Aquino troops in attacking rebel positions.

"We have American personalities and residences here at a striking distance, and we can hit them at will . . . if they (U.S. forces) are going to hit us," Maj. Abraham Puruganan said in an interview from a rebel stronghold in Manila's Makati district.