Situation begins to normalize, but danger still on in 5 areas PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 21 September 2013 12:04

The situation has begun to normalize starting Thursday with only few and sporadic gunfire at the conflict areas as the Zamboanga City crisis entered the 12th yesterday.

But the military warned residents against returning to Barangays Sta. Barbara, Rio Hondo, Sta. Catalina, Mariki, and Talon-Talon as the danger of armed encounters may still be there.

Armed Forces public affairs head Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said Talon-Talon, in particular, is an “area of interest” because it could be a “possible withdrawal route” of the MNLF.

Three suspected Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels were killed in a clash with government forces in Thursday night, the military said.

The three rebels with no identities yet, were shot dead in Barangay Sta. Barbara around 7:30 p.m., according to Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, commander of the Army’s 7th Civil Relations Group.

He said MNLF rebels tried to breach a security cordon under the cover of darkness.

Government troops wearing night-vision devices spotted them and a firefight ensued.

“Our soldiers are watching the possible exit routes using night vision devices to prevent them from escaping,” he said.

Soldiers seized 3 high-powered firearms from the slain rebels.

Earlier in the day, Scout Rangers seized a cal. 50 heavy machinegun tripod and empty magazines after a clash with Nur Misuari’s supporters also at Sta. Barbara.

Heavy clashes broke out in parts of Zamboanga city on Thursday, resulting in 11 rebels killed.

More than 100 people have died while about 112,000 have been displaced in 11 days of fighting with the rebels from the Misuari faction of the MNLF.

The Army said only 70 rebels were holding out after about 100 had either surrendered or been captured, and 86 had been killed.

Meanwhile, President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday said there is evidence that Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari is deeply involved in the attack on Zamboanga City.

“Tumitibay ang ebidensya na may kinalaman si Chairman Misuari dito,” Aquino told reporters at press conference in Zamboanga City, where he was personally overseeing government actions in relation to the crisis, which, early on its 12th day (Friday), sporadic firefights left two civilians wounded.

Aquino did not elaborate, but cited Misuari’s apparent desire to postpone the tripartite review of the implementation of the 1996 peace agreement between the MNLF and the Philippine government.

“Isa siya dapat sa kausap sa Indonesia at biglang nagbago siya ng kanyang track. Siyempre meron tayong necessary reaction dun,” he said.

In a flash report Friday morning, GMA News’ Ivan Mayrina said two civilians from an interior part of an area along Lustre Street were hit by stray bullets as fresh fighting broke out early Friday morning.

In Manila on Thursday, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Misuari never spoke to Indonesia about the Zamboanga incident.

The OIC Peace Committee for Southern Philippines (OIC-PCSP) is facilitating the implementation review of the 1996 pact between the Philippine government and the MNLF. It is chaired by Indonesia, where the meeting was supposed to be held.

Aquino and Lacierda made the statement more than a week after admitting that they don’t have enough evidence to link Misuari to the Zamboanga attack that left over a hundred people, most of them rebels, dead.

The Palace, however, has repeatedly said that the Department of Justice is already studying what charges can be filed against Misuari and the alleged leader of rebel forces in Zamboanga City, Habier Malik.

On Wednesday, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said Misuari’s men may face several charges, including murder and rebellion.

The President said he will not leave Zamboanga City until the crisis there caused by the attack of MNLF rebels on several villages has been resolved. He has been there since Friday last week.

The siege began Monday last week, and the situation has started returning to normal startin gThursday with the reopening of the Zamboanga airport to commercial flights.— With reports from ABS-CBN and GMA News