Terrified residents clamor for end to Zambo crisis: 70 MNLFs captured, 43 killed PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 16 September 2013 14:10

Terrified and agitated residents are all clamoring for an end to the Zamboanga City crisis that is yet unresolved on the seventh day yesterday.

Many are still apprehensive on the clear and present danger despite assurance given by officials led by DILG Sec. Mar Roxas that the standoff is now “constricted” in small areas in Sta. Catalina and Sta. Barbara.

The conflict prolonged after the government took a hardline stand against the MNLF attackers, junking a proposed ceasefire and opting to use force to neutralize or drive the attackers away from Zamboanga city.

Mayor Beng Climaco emphasized on Saturday that she and many constituents do not wish to see this current conflict end like the 1989 Cawa-Cawa siege where renegade policeman Rizal Alih and his cohorts escaped and the Cabatangan siege in 2000 where MNLF forces led by Julhambri Misuari walked away free with safe condut pass after holding hostage many children, women and men.

President Aquino has assumed direct command of the crisis, giving orders to the military and police closing in on the MNLF gunmen boxed in Sta. Catalina and Sta. Barbara.

An AFP report, quoting spokesman Lt. Col. Rafael Zagala, pegged the number of dead at 53 — 43 of them rebels, 6 from military and police forces, and four civilians.

Sec. Roxas brushed aside questions about politics getting in the way of resolving the seven-day conflict. Earlier, Vice President Jejomar Binay said that Moro National Liberation Front founder Nur Misuari and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin had agreed to a ceasefire. This was later denied.

Binay arrived in Zamboanga and joined a lunch meeting with President Aquino and Roxas, along with security officials at the Western Mindanao Command. Binay was also briefed separately.

This developed as government forces have captured some 70 MNLF fighters including female snipers  Almost all of them have disrobed their MNLF uniforms which were recovered in different places in Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina.

Several hostages have escaped from rebels captivity as the latter were engaging in gunbattle with soldiers. Some of those who got away from captivity sustained injuries.

Three detention cells at the City Police Office were jammed with captured MNLF rebels while the ordinary detainees were transferred to the Sta. Maria Police Station.

Seventeen bodies of MNLF rebels that were recovered during a clearing operation at the Sta. Barbara area were buried following Islamic rites in Talabaan last Saturday while other cadavers remain at the Villa Funeral Parlor awaiting proper procedure before interment.

Based on actual DZT coverage,  several hostages managed to escape from the MNLF Misuari group. One of them was wounded and died in the hospital.

Reymundo Cepada Jr. suffered a fatal wound in the stomach and was rushed to the hospital where he expired while undergoing treatment Friday afternoon. Two other hostages, one of whom wounded in the left shoulder slipped from rebels captivity in separate place in the affected area. Minutes later a couple and their child and an adult fled and were met by soldiers and policemen. The child identified as Ethan Ando, 2, was hit by bullet in the forehead. He died in the hospital.

Last Saturday, nine more hostages escaped. They were identified as Lyka Tabios, 8, Arlene Tabios, Nita Tabios, 14, Melanie Tabios, 11, Ira Mae Lomiton, Narcisa Lomiton, Benjamin Leonardo, Bernardo Marcos and Celedonia Bernardo, 70.  Another one identified as Arnel Renacia also escaped later. Then three more got away — two of them were identified as Dr. Clemente Almonte and Pastor David Nifras Torres.

Last Friday afternoon, three volunteers of the Philippine Red Cross, one staff of the Commission on Human Rights, two policemen, two Army soldiers and an intelligence operative were wounded from MNLF mortar shell that exploded along the Sta. Catalina road near Zamboanga City Medical Center.

Meanwhile, a policeman and two civilians were wounded after they were hit by stray bullets while they were at the vicinity of Camp Batalla in RT Lim Boulevard at noon Saturday.

Report said that some of the MNLF rebels were captured as they were escaping through a sewerage system in Sta. Catalina. Others pretended to be mentally ill as they walked out of the area where MNLF forces had holed up in Sta. Barbara.

An MNLF rebel disguised in female dress was also found dead with a bullet wound in the head in Baliwasan.

Nine blazes sparked by heavy fightings on Friday and Saturday have razed more than 150 houses in the affected areas. – Dan Toribio Jr.