MNLF attacks Zambo City, using 20 hostages as 'human shields;' cop killed
September 9, 2013 6:32am
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(Updated 9:38 a.m.) Some 100 armed followers of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) former chairman Nur Misuari have entered Zamboanga City Monday and taken at least 20 people hostage, city mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said.
In an interview over radio dzBB, Climaco-Salazar said the city government has declared "no classes and no work" due to the tense situation.
"As of now 20 people are being held hostage. (We believe) the main target of the MNLF in encroaching Zamboanga City is to (declare) independence in City Hall. We are securing City Hall," she said in an interview on dzBB radio.
The Philippine Information Agency, however, reported on its Facebook account that the MNLF men had 30 hostages, including children.
Citing initial information reaching her, Climaco-Salazar said the hostage-taking occurred at Barangay Sta. Catalina.
But a separate dzBB report said that while classes and work had been suspended, operations at the city's airport continued as of 7 a.m.
The mayor also said they are establishing evacuation centers for residents of at least three villages whose residents were evacuated earlier Monday.
She added the city government was not advised that the armed men were to escort MNLF chairman Nur Misuari in the area.
Also, she asked the national government to hold dialogues with the MNLF outside Zamboanga City.
"We do not want dialogues held in Zamboanga City. The people of Zamboanga City are not part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao," she said.
Earlier Monday, a soldier was killed, while at least six others were wounded, during a clash between the armed forces and suspected MNLF gunmen before dawn in Zamboanga City.
Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines public information office, said the encounter occurred off the coast of Rio Hondo in Zamboanga City.
Citing initial reports, Zagala said the encounter involved suspected MNLF fighters and the Naval Special Operations Group.
"'Yung malungkot, may isang kasundaluhan na namatay at may mga wounded," he said over dzBB radio.
Zagala added that they were verifying if some MNLF fighters managed to enter the city proper.
Meanwhile, Maj. Harold Cabunoc, commander of the Philippine Army's 7th Civil Relations Group, said the gunbattle occurred at 1:45 a.m.
"Let's offer a minute (of) prayer for the fallen soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country," Cabunoc said on his Twitter account.
100 armed followers
Initial reports from the military said some "100 more or less" armed followers of the MNLF's former chairman Nur Misuari were involved in the encounter.
An earlier dzBB report said the encounter started at 1 a.m. when the Misuari gunmen approached the city via the coastal village of Mariki.
The fighters exchanged gunfire with Navy personnel and members of Task Force Zamboanga. At least one suspected Misuari fighter was reported wounded in the shootout.
Residents in Mariki, Sta. Barbara and Rio Hondo villages were evacuated because of the clashes. Businesses were also closed and classes were suspended in the city, radio dzBB's correspondent JV Francisco reported.
Following the encounter, security was tightened in the city, with military and police personnel establishing security checkpoints.
The city government is to convene its crisis management council Monday morning.
Apprehend armed men
Climaco-Salazar said she has instructed police and military forces in the city to "apprehend all persons who are armed."
"Lahat ng walang license to carry guns should be apprehended by the police and military," she said.
At 8:40 a.m. Monday, the Zamboanga City government announced on its Twitter account that 11 MNLF members were arrested in the city.
A separate report by dzBB's JV Francisco said the MNLF members had reached the area near Zamboanga City Hall and the Hall of Justice.
Media were kept away from the area and brought to a nearby hotel, the report added.
But the dzBB report said explosions similar to those from rocket-propelled grenades were heard.
The MNLF had demanded to be allowed to march down Zamboanga City Hall so they can display their flag as a declaration of independence, state-run Philippine Information Agency reported.
In posts on its social networking accounts, the PIA in Western Mindanao said the MNLF men had 30 hostages, including children.
"(They) demanded that they be allowed to march down Zamboanga City Hall with their 30 hostages (including children) and put the MNLF flag in front of City Hall as declaration of MNLF independence," it said.
It added the gunfight continued to frighten residents, with the MNLF having penetrated the city via Talon-Talon, Rio Hondo and Mariki.
Task Force Zamboanga head Col. Andrelino Colina said in an interview over dzBB radio the MNLF is "trying hard to move forward to the center of the city."
"What complicates matters, may ginagamit na civilian na human shield, ginagamit na hostages," Colina said.
In the meantime, he said the task force has deployed personnel to the city's east coast to watch out for MNLF members who may try to enter the city.
Meanwhile, a report by dzBB's Glen Juego said at least four police personnel had been wounded in the clashes with the MNLF.
Barangay tanods, bantay dagat alerted
The city has also ordered its barangay watchmen and watchmen at the coastal areas to be alert against the possible entry of more MNLF members. — DVM/KG, GMA News
I ask everyone to pray for my relatives, my loved ones and everyone affected by this recent crisis to hit my beloved city.
Clearly, there was failure of intelligence in the part of the military which failed to stop this. Clearly the blame goes to the Aquino Administration. We hope that the government -- already smarting from similar failure in handling the recent attack in Sabah -- will not bungle this problem of rebellion and terrorism on the city of my birth.
This problem makes the pork barrel issue look small because the news of rebellion and deaths will spread around the world, affect investors confidence, shake the stock market, result in downgrading of RP as a business investment area, cause loss of jobs and business opportunities, affect tourism etc.
All of us will be affected by this!