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Philippine troops have located the area on a remote island where Muslim rebels were believed to be holding an American hostage and were moving in on the site today, a presidential spokesman said.

The assault on the separatist Abu Sayyaf rebels on the southern island of Jolo began in the afternoon, and Ricardo Puno said military officials believe "there are hopeful and promising signs that they may be able to get something accomplished in the very, very near future."

Jeffrey Schilling of Oakland, Calif., is among 19 hostages the rebels continued to hold last weekend as they fled a major military mission seeking to rescue the captives.

A radio station today broadcast the first interview with Schilling since the rescue assault began Saturday. In the interview, conducted by satellite telephone, he appealed to the Philippine government to halt the mission and resume negotiations.

He said many civilians were being hurt by the assault, creating more support for the rebels.

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