Death toll in Zamboanga attack now at 51
MANILA (1st UPDATE) – The number of people killed in the ongoing firefight between government forces and a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front now stands at 51, the spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said on Saturday.
According to Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, the fatality count on the government side is now at five with 49 wounded in action.
Of the five killed in action, three were from the Philippine National Police and two from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Among those wounded, 11 were from the PNP, 38 from the military side, and the remaining 28 were civilians.
Three civilians were also killed in the firefight.
"Sa panig ng MNLF, ang total killed ay 43 at apprehended/surrendered ay 19," said Zagala in an earlier interview.
But of the 43, 21 were actual body count while the rest were based on reports from their units, Zagala said.
The PNP said that there are still seven hostages being held while 15 escaped from their captors.
Zagala said that even with the MNLF agreeing to a ceasefire on Friday, Moro rebels continue to engage government troops in a firefight.
"We have several operations today. Rest assured the Armed Forces of the Philippines, using this calibrated response, is pressing the fight to ensure the safety and security of not only our members but the civilian populace as well," Zagala added during a press conference in Zamboanga City.
As of 7 a.m. Saturday, a fire broke out in Lustre, Sta. Catalina, just several meters away from the Zamboanga City Medical Center.
No firefighters responded to the scene as MNLF rebels and soldiers continue to exchange gunfire. Zagala said the MNLF is now resorting to burning properties that also endangers the lives of civilians who are still in the area.
The City Government of Zamboanga has ordered forced evacuation of residents in Sta. Catalina, Rio Hondo, Sta Barbara, Talon-Talon and Mampang—the five barangays affected by the standoff which is already on its 6th day.
The AFP spokesperson assured that soldiers remain committed to their sworn mission of protecting civilians despite media reports that they are now lacking in supplies, including food.
"Kung di man kami makakain hindi dahil wala kaming pagkain pero kung di we want to move forward as fast as we can para matapos po natin, matigil ang kaharasan na ginagawa ng nandoon sa harapan," Zagala explained.
"Ang pagkain namin kumpleto. Ang support ng General Headquarters, kumpleto…pagkain gamot, bala. We are in 100% sa laban na ito at ang support sa kasundaluhan na ito ay 100% din," he assured.
He also appealed to media to allow soldiers do their job.
"Ang importante ngayon hindi sila mag-isip ng mga bagay na makakaapekto pa sa moral nila," he said.
Zagala also urged mediamen covering the situation in Zamboanga to watch out for their safety, as there are over 100 MNLF rebels still in the area.
"I know na you have a thirst to deliver the information. We recognize that. Pero kailangan din po isipin nyo din po safety nyo. Like civilians, kasama kayo sa kailangan naming protektahan. Ang appeal ko, cover from a safe distance," he said. With reports from Edwin Sevidal, DZMM