Monday, September 9, 2013

MNLF movements towards Zamboanga monitored as early as three days ago - AFP

From InterAksyon (Sep 9): MNLF movements towards Zamboanga monitored as early as three days ago - AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines had been monitoring forces supposedly loyal to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari as early as three days before fighting broke out in Zamboanga City on Monday morning. This was bared by Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, public affairs head of the military, on Monday in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

"We had received from Task Force Zamboanga and Western Mindanao Command (reports that) MNLF forces (were being) monitored as early as three days (ago) and they came to Zamboanga City unarmed," Zagala said.

He said the rebels came from Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Sur, with some arriving from Sulu. It was not immediately known where the rebels obtained the heavy firearms that were used to hold siege over Zamboanga City.

“So last night (Tuesday) troops were deployed all over Zamboanga City, specifically in the (barangays of) Rio Hondo, Sta. Barbara, Talon-Talon and Marique,” Zagala said, anticipating “that a group of armed MNLF (members) would be arriving.”

Members of the Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG) were deployed in Rio Hondo where they encountered MNLF forces at around 1:45 a.m. on Monday. The firefight at sea lasted for about 10 minutes. One member of the Special Operations Group of the Philippine Navy was killed in the encounter and six others were wounded.

By 4 a.m., Zagala said, soldiers from a Task Force Zamboanga led by Col. Andreilino Colina had already cordoned off the areas of Sta. Barbara, Talon-Talon and Rio Hondo.

Despite the anticipated movements, however, MNLF forces were able to penetrate Zamboanga City, and even take civilians hostage.

At least 100 Muslim rebels stormed Zamboanga City early Monday morning as they tried to seize control over city hall. They reportedly took as many as 220 people hostage.

Firefight with government troops shut down the city and resulted in the death of at least two security forces and injuries to at least 17 others.

"Their target is the City Hall. They want to raise their flag of independence at city hall," Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar told dzBB in a radio interview on Monday morning.

A military official said the rebels were members of breakaway faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Haber Malik. However, an MNLF official said the armed men were there as an "advance team" for Misuari.

Climaco-Salazar said the situation forced the local government to suspend work in the city hall and asked the military and police to secure it. Other public operations, as well as classes, and air and water transportation going to and from the city, were also shut down.

The hostilities, which broke out in the city's Barangay Rio Hondo, started at around 3 a.m., waking people from sleep and forcing them to flee the area.

The rebels scattered to nearby barangays. Some 35 to 40 of them were spotted in Barangay Sta. Catalina.

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