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Negotiators warned to stay away

Muslim rebels warned negotiators Sunday to stay away from their jungle camp, saying it was too dangerous to hold talks on the release of two French hostages after a clash between rival guerrilla factions the previous day.

Negotiators said flaring tensions among factions of the Abu Sayyaf rebels, who say they are fighting for an independent Islamic state, mean it will probably take at least five days to free the two journalists. The two were not released Saturday with four other European hostages.

Rebel leader Ghalib "Robot" Andang called a negotiator and said he planned to retaliate against the faction that attacked a caravan of vehicles Saturday in which he and two go-betweens were riding.

The go-betweens were not injured, but at least one of their bodyguards was killed and eight others in the entourage were injured, negotiators said. Many civilians were also injured in the cross fire, they said.

"The situation is still quite unstable," chief negotiator Robert Aventajado said. "Robot needs to recover his confidence about the security of himself and also some of his people, including the safety of the French journalists."

The military has reported rising tensions among the Abu Sayyaf over the division of millions of dollars paid for the release of other hostages seized April 23.

After releasing two Finns, a French and a German on Saturday, the rebels are still holding the two French journalists, 12 Filipino Christian evangelists, and another Filipino.

A separate rebel faction is holding an American Muslim, Jeffrey Schilling, who was abducted Aug. 28 when he visited their camp.

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