Editor (Asia- Far East)
ZAMBOANGA – Philippnine troops have continuously exchanged fire with Muslim guerrillas since a stand-off took place in Zamboanga city last Monday. At least nine people were killed and many residents have fled the area in fear of facing the violence. Commercial flights to and from the city were suspended as well as the ferry services, which left approximately 13,000 civilians seeking shelter at the Zamboanga city sports stadium.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has deployed thousands of its troops to deal with the crisis caused by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels. Reports said that about a dozen hostages were taken after rebels clashed with the navy patrol, some of the civilians are used as ‘human shields’.
The MNLF was founded by Nur Misuari in 1971 with aims to fight for an independent Islamic nation. They have signed the peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996. However, even after that the MNLF rebellion did not stop, Misuari’s forces have used residents as shields back in 2001 to secure safe passage after a failed uprising.
These clashes disturbed years of relative calm in Zamboanga city and villages around it. Such high-profile hostage abduction by Muslim rebels has happened numerous times in the past. Nonetheless, since 2002 the US counter-terrorism forces have been providing training for Filipino troops. According to Edwin Lacierda, presidential spokesman, the national government is responding to Zamboanga city government’s appeal for help: “We condemn the attack on Zamboanga city in the strongest possible terms,” he stated.
Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons (Keith Kristoffer Bacongco)