Six victims were reported dead, dozens were wounded, and more than 200 were held hostage by suspected members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who attacked several coastal villages in Zamboanga City.
|MNLF Hostages in Zamboanga City|
Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco said the fatalities include one policeman, one navy personnel and four civilians.
"More casualties are reported on the enemy side," she said in a statement after convening the city's crisis management committee.
Rebels were holding 200 hostages in Brgy. Kasanyangan and 20 in Brgy. Sta. Catalina, Zamboanga City.
What triggered the mass attack was the encounter between the government troops and the rebels that started around 4:30 a.m., according to Climaco. She lamented that the cause of the clash is MNLF's quest to declare independence in Zamboanga.
Elite Navy personnel clashed with a group of at least 100 armed MNLF rebels on board a large motorboat and eight small vessels off the village of Rio Hondo, according to Military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala.
Climaco said the hostages were used as human shields but Senior Superintendent Wilben Mayor, Philippine National Police Spokesperson, said the civilians were merely trapped.
Climaco said over a thousand people have fled their homes. 600 residents have left their homes in Arena Blanco and Rio Hondo villages while 847 people have fled to Tetuan Central School and Tetuan Parish Church.
She assured that the government is mobilizing all resources to address the situation. "We are in close coordination with our police and military authorities and everything is being done to solve the crisis the soonest possible time with minimal damage to lives and properties," she said.
Meanwhile, Chief Superintendent Juanito Banio, director of the Zamboanga Peninsula regional police office, said that the MNLF rebels are being led by Haber Malik, a Moro commander closely linked to the MNLF faction of former ARMM governor Nur Misuari.