Philippine security officials issued a final ultimatum on Saturday for Muslim rebel leaders to turn in their men responsible for killing 14 marines, 10 of them beheaded, by Sunday or face "punitive action" from government forces poised to strike.
The military is ready to launch operations against the rebels on southern Basilan island, after obtaining authorization from the policy-making National Security Council, acting Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales and armed forces chief of staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon both said.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels have acknowledged attacking a convoy of marines who were returning from a search for a kidnapped Italian priest on southern Basilan island on July 10, killing 14, but denied guerrillas decapitated 10 of them.
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