Zamboanga City, Philippines Under Siege
The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) continues into it’s second day of holding hostages and bringing down sporadic terror attacks on Zamboaga City in The Philippines. Around 600 MNLF gunmen have occupied the adjacent Barangays of Sta. Catalina, Rio Hondo, Mariki, a part of Talon-Talon and Kasanyangan in support of their comrades who have positioned themselves at Barangay Sta. Barbara. This offers a stark contrast to the beauty of the city in rest.
At 3 a.m. Tuesday, around 30 heavily armed MNLF troops, using civilians as human shields, were spotted proceeding to Barangay Sta. Catalina to support their comrades but they were blocked by policemen and soldiers from Task Force Zamboanga (TFZ) who were manning checkpoints in the area.
On Tuesday morning, an exchange of gunfire between gov’t and MNLF forces at Barangay Sta Barbara resulted in the wounding of one PO2 Baquina. He was immediately bought to the hospital for treatment. The Zamboanga City Regional Hospital, known to many as the Zamboanga General Hospital, has virtually turned into a soldiers camp as soldiers and policemen are now occupying the hospital to prevent the MNLF from moving closer to City Hall.
MNLF forces at Barangay Sta Barbara have positioned troops in a mosque, concrete residential houses, elementary schools and high rise buildings, acting as snipers and shooting government troops when sighted.
Citizens are taking shelter in an attempt to be out of the line of fire and to avoid becoming hostages or worse, human shields. The City Social Welfare Office reports that that there are about 174 families with 1,099 individuals housed at Tetuan Parish, 50 families with 200 individuals at Tetuan Central School, 25 families with 115 individuals at ICAS-Tetuan, 231 families with 1,071 individuals at the Don Joaquin F Enriquez Sport Complex.
At last reports, casualties remained at six killed and 24 wounded. The number of hostages, per Zamboanga City Central Police Office (ZCPO) report is 220 at last count, including civilians and medical workers.
A former MNLF hard core leader of Sulu province turned legislator appealed to the MNLF fighters who invaded the city to refrain from using civilians as human shields.
“I appeal to the MNLF fighters who are now in Zamboanga City to refrain from using civilians as human shields,” Sulu 1st Dist Rep Habib Tupay Loong said.
Rep Loong also delivered a privilege speech at the House of Representatives on Tuesday calling the national government to seriously address the crisis in Zamboanga City. Loong said the conflict has driven away people from their homes in fear and panic to escape the horror of conflict.
“And as a consequence, offices and classes in the City have already been suspended. Airline flights to and from the city have also been cancelled. My heartfelt sympathy to the innocent victims of this attack,” Rep Loong said.
According to The Manila Bulletin, political leaders of Sulu are “disturbed and deeply worried that the Zamboanga attack may eventually develop into something worse and compared to the February 7, 1974 attack in the town of Jolo by the MNLF forces which resulted in the razing of the town of Jolo and hundreds of casualties on both sides, both military and civilian, the displacement of hundreds of residents to neighboring communities and the loss of hundreds of millions of pesos in economic damage”
Rep. Ruby Sahali in the lone congressional district of Tawi-Tawi said that “as a mother, I ask that we keep our calm and take a moment to pray to Allah for peace and that nonviolence will reign in all of us as we pray to resolve our differences and misunderstandings. On this light, we advise people to stay in your homes, do not go out of the streets unless it is of utmost importance. The police and military are properly handling the situation,” she said.
The MNLF has repeated their demands for the city government to allow them to raise the MNLF flag at city hall, which symbolizes their independence from the Philippine republic. The city government said that it would never allow the MNLF to raise their flag l, and that there is only one legitimate government in the Philippines – the Philippine Republic.
Image via Manila Bulletin