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Standoff in Zambo City

By Francisco Tuyay | Sep. 10, 2013 at 12:04am
Misuari force, AFP hold fort; curfew imposed by mayor

A spokesman of the Moro National Liberation Front said on Tuesday that they are sending more troops to reinforce the guerillas occupying at least five barangays in Zamboanga City, which was placed under curfew as government troops and MNLF rebels remained locked in a standoff.

In the photo above taken on Aug. 12, MNLF leader Nur Misuari addresses his armed followers in one of their camps in Indanan, Sulu, following his declaration that he was breaking away from the government because he believed it was sidelining his group. In the photo above taken on Aug. 12, MNLF leader Nur Misuari addresses his armed followers in one of their camps in Indanan, Sulu, following his declaration that he was breaking away from the government because he believed it was sidelining his group. AFP

MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza said that an additional 10,000 guerillas will be sent to barangays Santa Barbara, Santa Catalina, Talon-Talon, Talabaan and Riondo where the rebels escaped after a brief attack at the Zamboanga City Hall.

Cervez claimed that the MNLF actually has 25,000 guerillas under the command of Haber Malik spread over the peninsula ready to capture vital facilities in its aim to press its bid for independence for Mindanao.

“Our primary objective is to gain control of all government installations, but we will spare civilians,” Cerveza said. He admitted that dozens of Moro fighters were injured in the operations, particularly in Barangay Rio Hondo where Navy troops intercepted MNLF forces around 1:45 a.m. Monday.

Zamboanga City Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, meanwhile, declared a city-wide curfew, which would take effect from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Salazar said classes at all levels and work for all city officials and employees had been suspended until today [Tuesday].

The MNLF under its founder Nur Misuari stormed the Zamboanga City Hall early Monday, and held hostage 200 to 300 people as they fled.

The standoff left two government troopers dead and nine others injured.

The military said that at least 400 guerillas participated in the attack.

Cerveza, meanwhile, admitted that dozens of Moro fighters were injured in the operations, particularly in Barangay Rio Hondo where Navy troops intercepted MNLF forces around 1:45 a.m. Monday.

In Malacanang, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda denounced the deadly attack.

“The authorities are responding to the situation in a manner that will reduce the risk to innocent civilians and restore peace and order to Zamboanga City at the soonest possible time,” Lacierda said in a statement.

City shuts down. City shuts down. Combat police forces check their comrade who was hit by MNLF sniper fire in downtown Zamboanga City on Sept. 9 after a group of 100 heavily armed MNLF fighters opposed to peace talks launched a major attack that shut down the city. AFP

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is holding peace talks with the government, branded the attacks in Zamboanga City as “unnecessary.”

MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said the attack “only complicates the situation instead of helping solve the problems of the Moro people.” He added that any involvement of the MILF will be limited to securing innocent civilians.

The MNLF guerillas arrived at Zamboanga City on board eight vessels, called kumpit, and a basnig fishing vessel in what the military described as “a well coordinated attack.”

Heavy firefight ensued when government scrambled to turn back the attack.

Armed Forces of the Philippines public affairs head Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the guerillas were unarmed as of Saturday, but were monitored to be armed on Sunday, prompting the AFP to act.

He said that on Sunday night, the Philippine Navy Special Operations Group interdicted the group in Rio Hondo, “resulting in a firefight.”

Task Force Zamboanga commander Col. Andreilino Colina said they are on top of the situation and will ask for augmentation from higher headquarters in the situation warrants.

“We have to prevent bloodshed. About 35 to 40 MNLF armed men were in Barangay Sta. Catalina,” he said.

About 800 soldiers were mobilized to track down the location of the rebels.

At least 1,000 families in the five neighboring  barangays in the city were forced to evacuate to government shelters and public schools to escape the fighting.

But while Cerveza confirmed that MNLF rebels were out to take control of the city, another MNLF spokesman, lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla, MNLF members were in the city as “advanced party” of Misuari who is scheduled to visit the city to hold a “peaceful campaign” for his call for “independence”.

Salazar, however, dismissed Fotanilla’s claim that Misuari’s followers were there to conduct peaceful protest.

“We’re not part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao  and we don’t want to be part of ARMM. It looks like they want to stage their protest here in Zamboanga. They want to hoist their flag and declare independence from government,” she said.

Fontanilla said there were about less than 100 followers who arrived at around 2 a.m. Monday in the coastal Barangay Sta. Catalina.

He added that Misuari plans to go around Mindanao to “consult people about the declaration of independence.”

He added that seven, not five as reported by Cerveza, are now under the rebels’ control.

Salazar said the “the situation is not a city-wide undertaking. Crisis is confined in 5 barangays. Zamboanga City has 98 barangays.”

In Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr. said soldiers on the ground were trying everything to prevent the escalation of the firefight.

“The situation is contained. We are coordinating our actions with the mayor to prevent further casualties.

Meanwhile, Abdul “Kong” Sahrin, MNLF secretary-general of the Muslimin Sema faction, has urged the Misuari side to stop the violence.

“They should stop this violence. We don’t want this incident to happen, maraming sibilyan at mga kababaihan ang nadadamay. Walang development tayong makukuha rito. We appeal for sobriety,” Sahrin said. With Florante Solmerin, Joyce Pangco-Panares, AFP


Attack Timeline


SEPT. 7, 2013


Many members of the Moro National Liberation Front are spotted in several places in Zamboanga City, prompting citizens to inform the authorities, according to the military.




10:30 pm.

Citizens report presence of 30 armed men in Barangay Rio Hondo, responding policemen arrest two armed MNLF members at a fish farm in the same barangay, the police said.


Around 11 p.m.

At least 300 residents were forced to flee their homes after clashes in Barangays Mariki and Rio Hondo, the police said.




Before 2 a.m.

Navy personnel intercept four boat-loads of armed men in Rio Hondo. Several MNLF and government troops wounded, the military and MNLF separately said.


Around 5 a.m.

Police arrest four armed men at the Zamboanga City Market, the police said.

Armed fire four rounds of mortar at security forces in Barangay Sta. Barbara, the military said.


Around 8 a.m.

Armed men attempt to raise MNLF flag at the Zamboanga City Hall, but security forces prevent them from doing so, according to Mayor Isabelle Climaco.

City hall suspends classes in all levels and suspends work in all offices, the mayor said.


Fighting escalates at Barangays Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, Talon-talon, Talabaan and Rio Hondo as MNLF fighters take 230 hostages in Santa Catalina, 50 in Santa Barbara, and 20 in Talon-Talon, the military said.


City hall imposes curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., the mayor said.

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