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MANILA, Philippines--Mutinous soldiers left their last strongholds in Manila late yesterday after U.S. warplanes intervened to help put down the most serious coup attempt since President Corazon Aquino took office in 1986.
The American action enabled Aquino's government to consolidate its forces and block rebels from moving against the palace and other points in the capital.
Gen. Renato de Villa, military chief of staff, said the sixth coup attempt against Aquino had failed. Manila radio stations broadcast a statement from the president last night saying the "enemy is routed, but is not yet vanquished."
Rebels abandoned the government television station and Villamor air base, which they had seized before dawn, and hundreds of mutinous marines marched out of Fort Bonifacio, their home garrison.
Hundreds of mutineers then began marching down a major thoroughfare toward Camp Aguinaldo, headquarters of the armed forces general staff.
What they intended to do at the camp was not clear, but pro-government forces did not try to stop them. Occasionally, some of the marchers would fire shots into the air or point their rifles at journalists trying to follow them.
U.S. Air Force F-4 Phantom jets from Clark Air Base, 50 miles north of Manila, roared over the city yesterday, halting rebel air attacks. The rebels had raided the presidential palace, military camps and a television station earlier in the day with planes and helicopters.
Mutinous soldiers questioned refused to say who directed the revolt. Rebel soldiers said the leaders included renegade Lt. Col. Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan, who led an August, 1987 coup attempt in which at least 53 people were killed.
Honasan has been at large since his escape from prison in April, 1988.
Honasan supported Aquino when she came to power in February, 1986 in a military-civilian uprising that ousted the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos, but turned against her because of the government's alleged failure to end corruption and curb a Communist insurgency.
Before the U.S. intervention, two T-28 aircraft bombed and rocketed Malacanang Palace compound. Witnesses reported five people killed, including two presidential guards.
Other air raids damaged the head-quarters building of the Philippine Constabulary national police at Camp Crame and the home of de Villa, the chief of staff, at Camp Aguinaldo.
A Bush administration official said U.S. planes began flying over the two rebel-held Philippine air bases, Sangley Point and Villamor, after authorization was received at 1:32 p.m. Manila time.
Shortly before that, rebel sources told The Associated Press they expected Aquino to resign within the day.
One hundred U.S. Marines were sent from an American base to help protect the U.S. Embassy, but the administration official said American ground troops were not involved in any action.
Pentagon spokesperson Pete Williams said no U.S. planes "fired any shots or intercepted any rebel aircraft."
"President Aquino's request was very specific...to conduct an aggressive cap over two Philippine air bases, Villamor and Sangley Point," the administration official said, on condition of anonymity.
A spokesperson for the rebels said the U.S. move was an affront to Filipino sovereignty and the mutineers would hold Ambassador Nicholas Platt personally responsible for the intervention.
About 40,000 U.S. military personnel, dependents and Defense Department civilians are stationed at six bases in the Philippines. Orders were issued restricting their travel and Americans were told to stay in their homes.
In addition to those assigned to the bases, up to 100,000 Americans live in the Philippines, according to the embassy.
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