Surrender of 21 MNLFs brings hope to Zambo: But residents saddened by death of young PMA grad PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 20 September 2013 11:34

The surrender of 21 battle-fatigued MNLF fighters out of their dugout in Sta. Barbara yesterday brought glimpse of hope  to Zamboangueños who have been praying for an immediate end to the Zamboanga City crisis. But this good news came along with a sad report that a young lieutenant, a Philippine Military Academy graduate (Class 2008), was killed in the final assault in the conflict areas.

Fifteen surrendered early morning, while six others yielded in the afternoon as troops continued the mopping operations yesterday.

Gunfight and mortar shelling resumed on the 11th day.of the crisis yesterday as government troops punched deeper into rebel positions on a house-to-house operation in Sta. Catalina and Sta. Barbara. Soldiers and policemen chased rebels retreating to Rio Hondo where another firefight erupted. Two fires broke out in Sta. Catalina and Rio Hondo.

Killed in the Sta. Barbara clearing operation was 1Lt. John Kristopher B. Rama.

The number of casualties has risen to 114.Fatalities included 83 MNLF fighters, 12 soldiers, three policemen, and seven civilians.

Officials said that several MNLF fighters were also wounded while 93 were captured or had surrendered.

From the ranks of the AFP, 105 were wounded. At least 12 policemen and 67 civilians were also wounded.

Chief Supt Felipe Rojas Jr, deputy police director for operations of the regional police, saif that those who surrendered were brought to the barangay hall of Sta Catalina,

Western Mindanao Command spokesman Col Rodrigo Gregorio confirmed the surrender of the 15, which took place  at 6:30 am.

“The way I look at it, our calibrated military response is paying off. They are constricted and they have no choice. They either fight it out or surrender,” said Gregorio.

“Their surrender is an indication na nahihirapan na sila,” he added.

“The surrenderers turned over 3 M16 rifles, 1 garand rifle, and 1 shotgun,” according to a military report.

DZT reporter Dan Toribio Jr. reported that six more surrendered in the afternoon.

“It was a sniper that killed the soldier at 5 am in the same barangay, according to Gregorio.

Zamboanga City is slowly trying to regain normalcy. Flights are expected to resume but the first flight of Cebu Pacific was a few minutes delayed, arriving at 10:06 am. yesterday.

The Armed Forces said MNLF men loyal to Nur Misuari have been trimmed to less than 70 members who are contained in the conflict areas

In Manila, AFP spokesman Domingo Tutaan said ending the standoff is taking longer than expected because MNLF forces continue to use hostages as human shields.

“They would start firing at the soldiers then put the hostages in front. That was causing the delay. We have to be discerning in launching our calibrated response,” he said.

Gen. Domingo Tutaan earler said the surviving MNLF fighters, believed holed up in Barangays Sta. Catalina and Sta. Barbara were running out of ammunition.

He made this statement after noting that fire from the rebel force has not been intense for the past few days.

“It is not as intense as (Tuesday). One, their number has been neutralized, (there have been) arrests and (some were) killed as far as the MNLF-Nur Misuari faction (is concerned) and also, we can attribute that to the efforts to gradually constrict and contain them in the areas where they are right now,” he said.

Tutaan estimates the number of remaining MNLF fighters at 75. He believes that MNLF commander Habier Malik is the one leading the rebel force

The AFP spokesperson also stressed that the military is focusing its attention on the two above-mentioned barangays.

Flights from Zamboanga to Cebu, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi remain suspended.