No ceasefire in Zamboanga; death toll now at 53-A A +A
Saturday, September 14, 2013
FIGHTING continues in Zamboanga City on Saturday despite the announcement of Vice President Jejomar Binay late Friday that Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari has accepted a ceasefire.
On the sixth day of the standoff, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the ceasefire is yet to be implemented, and fighting continues as of this posting Saturday.
Gazmin added that the ceasefire will not take effect if MNLF rebels would not stop firing at government forces securing Zamboanga City.
Binay talked to Misuari over the phone late Friday where he accepted a ceasefire to allow talks on ending a five-day hostage crisis. The Vice President relayed the news to Gazmin, who has been helping deal with the crisis in Zamboanga City.
As of 12 p.m. Friday, the death toll in the ongoing standoff rose to 53.
The fatalities include three soldiers, three policemen, four civilians and 43 MNLF members, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
At least 35 soldiers were wounded, six policemen, 20 civilians and nine MNLF rebels, it added.
Defense Secretary Gazmin on ceasefire agreement in Zamboanga: It has never been implemented. Firing continues until now.
— Team AFP (@TeamAFP) September 14, 2013
Police Operations Division says no order of a ceasefire. For your information and guidance.
— zambocitygovt (@zambocitygovt) September 13, 2013
The standoff began Monday when about 200 fighters from a MNLF rebel faction stormed several coastal communities in this city and seized residents.
President Benigno Aquino III flew to Zamboanga earlier Friday to visit government troops and some of the 24,000 residents displaced by the violence. He warned in a speech that his government won't hesitate to use force to end the most serious security crisis his administration has faced since he came to power in 2010.
The MNLF rebels have been overshadowed by a rival group in talks with the government for a new minority Muslim autonomy deal.
Misuari signed a peace deal in 1996, but the guerrillas did not lay down their arms and later accused the government of reneging on a promise to develop long-neglected Muslim regions in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation. The government said Misuari kept on stalling and making new demands.
Misuari has not been seen in public since the standoff began.
"There are lines they should not cross," Aquino said of the rebels. He said the government would be obligated to use "the force of the state" if those lines are crossed. (AP/PNA/Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)