Troops want to finish standoff, but careful on some hostages PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 22 September 2013 13:27

Government troops have been encountering difficulties in finishing the standoff that has entered its 13th day yesterday as the remaining MNLF forces are holding on to some hostages who are being used as human shields.

The military said the soldiers are careful in going after the few rebels holed up in the conflict areas because some hostages are still with the latter.

This developed as gunbattle erupted yesterday morning in the conflict areas in Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina with a mortar shell fired by the rebels landed and exploded at a house at the back of the Alta Mall in Barangay Tetuan killing a 71-year-old woman.

Norma Lladones was preparing food in their kitchen intended for soldiers and policemen when the mortar shell  slammed on one side wall of the house and exploded inside around 7:50 a.m. She sustained injuries and fractures caused by the powerful explosion that killed her on the spot

The explosion punctured the concrete wall and roof near the kitchen as well as damaged the glass jalousies of the windows.

Nestor Lladones, the OFW son of Norma, said that they were inside their three-storey concrete house at past 7 a.m. when they heard a loud explosion at the second floor.

When they rushed to the house’s second level, they were terrified to see Norma lying on the floor while one concrete side wall was punctured by the mortar shell.

Nestor said that his mother was at the second level of the house when the mortar shell hit their residence.

Norma was rushed to the hospital where she was declared dead by physicians.

It was learned that the mortar shell that hit the Lladones residence was only one of those fired by the MNLF group who ere engaging in gunbattle with troops in the continuous clearing operation at Ayer Village, Sta. Barbara.

Mortar shelling can reached as far as two kilometers.

In Manila, Palace said the government has not set a timetable when to end the standoff but assured the public that security forces will continue to push forward until all the hostages are freed.

“On the side of the government, we will continue to push forward what we have been doing in the past days, which is to make sure that none of the citizens are harmed or put in harm’s way,” Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a press briefing in Malacanang.

Soldiers and policemen will continue to constrict the movements of the rebels and the President has asked for an inquiry to determine why the MNLF fighters still have the resources to wage battle after more than a week of fighting.

Asked if the President’s presence in Zamboanga was a sign for the immediate conclusion of the standoff, Valte said his presence is a manifestation of the President’s resolve to be with the residents until the crisis is over.

“The President’s presence there is testament really to his statement to the people of Zamboanga City na hindi namin kayo iiwan, nandito kami para i-extend lahat ng puwedeng gawin ng pamahalaan para sa inyo,” she said.