AFP denies Misuari men came in peace
MANILA -- The military is disputing claims of the Nur Misuari-led faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that they were only planning to conduct a "peaceful rally" in Zamboanga City before the firefights erupted on Monday.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the violent actions of the armed group led by Commander Habir Malik and their arrival via Zamboanga's coast in the cover of darkness betray their true intent.
"They arrived at 1 in the morning in the cover of darkness. That's why it's very hard to believe what they are saying that they are coming in peacefully. Because why are you coming at 1 in the morning?" Zagala said.
"Such acts are really unacceptable, to come in armed and make these demands... How can it be peaceful as they said?"
"Even if how legitimate their demands are, their actions say otherwise, taking hostages," he added.
Zagala said they have managed to confine an estimated 180 rogue MNLF fighters to five barangays in Zamboanga to prevent them from advancing and taking over the city.
He also brushed off criticism there was a failure of intelligence.
He said the AFP deployed troops to the fringes of the five barangays since they first monitored the movement of MNLF factions from Cebu, Zamboanga Sibugay and Basilan on September 8. The military initially engaged the MNLF in an encounter off Rio Hondo early morning on September 9.
One Navy soldier was killed in the first encounter while six others were wounded.
"At Santa Barbara, at that point we were able to stop them. So they have never advanced since this began," Zagala said.
"We have confined them in five barangays and our primary mission is really to cordon off these barangays and contain them there," he added. -- With ANC