Fighting, fire break out anew in Zamboanga-A A +A
By Bong Garcia
Thursday, September 19, 2013
ZAMBOANGA CITY (Updated 12:25 p.m.) -- Fifteen Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels surrendered, as fresh fighting and fire erupted anew on Thursday in this city.
Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II said the rebels who surrendered are in the custody of the troops. Roxas said the fresh encounter erupted around 8 a.m. Thursday in Barangay Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina, adding that a junior officer was hit after an exchange of fires from both camps.
A fire also broke anew in the villages of Sta. Barbara and Rio Hondo amid the fighting. The firemen were not given the signal to go to the scene of the fire, as they will become easy targets of the MNLF rebels.
More than 10 fire incidents have broke out amid the fighting in this city since the start of the standoff last September 9.
Amid the crisis, Zamboanga Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar earlier called on residents to remain steadfast.
"Let not devastation creep in our hearts," she said, holding back tears. "We shall fight for justice, we shall rebuild this city, we shall come out stronger after all this."
Regional prosecutor Peter Medalle said the captured rebels and their commanders would likely be charged with rebellion, as well as violating international humanitarian laws that forbid taking people hostage and using them as human shields and occupying civilian communities.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said flights resumed Thursday. However, only one flight per airline was allowed to land in this city’s airport, said Roxas.
Stores and banks have already reopened in the city center, he added.
The MNLF faction, overshadowed by a rival and bigger rebel group in negotiations with the government to expand an autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao, barged into the city several weeks after declaring independence in Muslim-dominated southern provinces.
Led by Nur Misuari, the group 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. The government said the rebels, with several hundred armed fighters, refused to take part in the ongoing talks with their rivals — the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front — because they insisted they are the sole representatives of minority Muslims. (Bong Garcia/Sunnex)