Air, sea strikes pressure MNLFs to surrender, release hostages PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 25 September 2013 13:15

Philippine Air Force (PAF) helicopters pounded rebel positions with rockets while naval gunboats continued to fire light artilleries from the sea to keep the remaining MNLF Misuari loyalists led by Habier Malik within the boxed area and pressure them to release less than 20 hostages as the crisis entered its 16th day yesterday.

PAF choppers were deployed to conduct aerial reconnaissance to prevent the remaining MNLF fighters from breaking through the military cordon in Barangay Sta. Barbara and Catalina and Rio Hondo.

Huey helicopters hovered above the conflict areas yesterday watching the movement of the MNLF fighters, while MG-520 attack helicopters pounded some spots with rockets where Misuari loyalists tried to get out of the cordon.

Off the coast of Talon-Talon were naval gunboats also pounding rebel positions and preventing them from escaping through the sea.

Helicopter pilots have been communcating the  ground forces to guide them on the rebel movements.

“All our airborne choppers are conducting aerial reconnaissance,” 1st Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Jefferson Somera said.

This developed as one of the MNLF commanders from Basilan who have engaged in a series of firefights with government troops in the Sta. Catalina area surrendered with seven followers and released five hostages yesterday morning.

Salip Idjal and his seven men laid down their firearms and submitted themselves to security forces as they turned over five hostages.

The freed hostages were identified as Jahada Jamil, Geraldine Mohammad, Darel Ybañez, Joel Baguio and Princess Miyan.

The surrenderers were turned over to the police, while the freed hostages were taken by authorities in Camp Batalla for debriefing.

Last Monday around 11 a.m., soldiers of the Army’s 32nd infantry Battalion rescued two hostages identified as Elizabeth Vaniser, 43, and Vicente Climaco, 70. They were placed in the custody of the Joint Special Operation Task Force -V for proper action.

Meanwhile, five more bodies of MNLF rebels were recovered in separate locations with the battleground yesterday afternoon.

The bodies were brought to a funeral parlor for post mortem examination.

Another civilian was hit by a stray bullet and died in Tugbungan last Monday.

As the Zamboanga City crisis entered its 16th day, Philippine National Police (PNP) deputy director for operations Deputy Director Felipe Rojas, Jr., expressed hope that clearing operations will be over by weekend.

“We’re winding down our operations. We hope to end it by this weekend,” he said in a radio interview.

Citing his information, he said there are about 15 more hostages left.

Rojas added that government forces will “press on” with its operations until they are released.

He also belied claims that the forces of Habier Malik had increased.

Rojas said clearing operations will be sustained until the MNLF members are removed.

The MNLF started the crisis last September 9 by taking several civilians hostage, but the government has retaken most  of the civilian captives. — With report from Dan Toribio Jr.