Fresh gunfire on fourth day of Zamboanga siege
MANILA – Gunfire was heard in a village in Zamboanga City as the standoff between government forces and the rebels from the Nur Misuari-led faction of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) entered its fourth day on Thursday.
A report from the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center said gunfire was heard at around 5:30 a.m. today along Martha Drive in Sta. Catalina village.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier General Domingo Tutaan said government forces were trying to move closer to the MNLF-controlled areas to restrict the movement of the rebels, but containing them has proven to be hard because of the presence of several MNLF snipers.
At least 13,000 people have already fled their homes as the fighting continues.
The siege began four weeks after MNLF founder Nur Misuari declared "independence" for the Muslim regions of the mainly Catholic nation and urged his followers to besiege government installations.
The MNLF ended a 25-year rebellion with a 1996 peace treaty, but Misuari's faction laid a similar deadly siege on Zamboanga in 2001 that led to his imprisonment until 2008, when all charges against him were dropped.
Misuari has since been protesting against a proposed government peace deal with rival rebel faction the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that he said would marginalize the MNLF and violate the terms of the 1996 peace deal.
The latest attack on Zamboanga is led by a top Misuari lieutenant, Habier Malik, and has left 12 people dead and 21 others injured. – with a report from Edwin Sevidal, dzMM; with Agence France-Presse