Police on full alert as siege anniversary draws near PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 13:20

As the first anniversary of the infamous September 9 MNLF attack draws near, police are in full alert, according to Police Regional Office-9 Director Chief Supt. Edgar O. Basbas.

Gen. Basbas said yesterday the whole Zamboanga Peninsula is generally peaceful and the Philippine National Police is on top of the situation as all PNP units in the region are on highest alert status.

“Although the region is experiencing tranquility and peace,  PRO 9 has placed all its police units on the highest alert status in relation to the forthcoming Zamboanga City siege anniversary,” Basbas said in an interview..“We are on the fullest alert to prevent and address  any eventuality.”

Basbas urged the people to stay vigilant, but be calm and do not be carried away by gossips or alarming text messages that may disturb their work or livelihood

The police regional director assured the people not to worry because the  government forces are in full control of the situation.

“ The people should not allow gossip mongers to disturb their daily routines, but instead ask the authority what is the real situation and help the police by giving them information if there are suspected lawless persons in their area,” he advised.

On September 9 last year, some 500 Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) gunmen from the Misuari faction  coming from the neighboring Muslim provinces of Sulu and Basilan landed in Zamboanga City and occupied six coastal villages just more than two kilometers from the main commercial district and City Hall.

The invasion sparked a massive hostage taking that ended in a 20-day bloody fighting resulting in the death of more than 300 people including most of the attackers, government troops, policemen and civilians including children.

The siege also caused the burning of some 1,000 houses in the six affected villages, most of which are populated by Muslims and the displacement of over 100,000.

It started early morning when residents woke up in frantic as reports blared from local radio stations that this city had been attacked by Muslims rebels.

In the first hours there was no gunfire and explosion, only the sight of hundreds of policemen and sodliers with armored vehices deployed in the perimeter of the six coastal villages and the main commercial district that was already deserted. Around 8 a.m., live streams from local television stations showed Muslims gunmen, belonging to a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under its founder Nur Misuari taking over the villages of Sta. Barbara, where they set up a command post on a two-level concrete commercial building, in Rio Hondo, Mariki and Sta. Catalina. They demanded to raise the flag of the self-proclaimed “Bangsamoro Republik” at City Hall.

But the local government under Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco outrightly rejected the demand and warned the MNLF gunmen to leave the city or be forced to clear off the four villages. As army and police troops closed in on the villages, the rebels seized dozens of Christian villagers and spread their forces to three other adjacent villages where more civilians were captured and made human shields. As the day wore on, tension built up because of failed negotiations initiated to make the attackers release the hostages and leave the city. When darkness set in, sporadic gunfire were heard as gunbattles broke out in separate areas in the affected villages. This was the start of a series of fierce firefights that went on for 20 days which concluded with the capture and surrender of some 200 —  Allen Abastillas