Zambo violence leaves thousands displaced
MANILA – Fresh gunfights erupted in Zamboanga City on Wednesday as the standoff between government forces and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels enters its third day.
Sporadic gunfights were reported as early as 6 a.m. today in Barangays Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina. The clashes reached its peak at around 9 a.m.
No casualty was reported in the latest skirmishes.
Meanwhile, the number of residents who have fled their homes due to the ongoing standoff has reached over 6,000.
Most of the evacuees were from Barangay Mampang where at least 2,000 residents left their homes Tuesday as the gunfights between the two sides continue to escalate.
A large number of the evacuees are currently in Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex. Some are taking shelter in schools and churches.
City councilor Myra Paz Abubakar said the evacuees need additional supplies of food and other items such as clothes, blankets, and formula milk.
Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco, meanwhile, appealed to vital establishments outside the conflict zone to remain open.
Classes in the city remain suspended and the Zamboanga City International Airport is still shut down.
Only cargo vessels are allowed to dock at the city's port.
Local authorities said the MNLF rebels are currently holed up in at least 6 barangays, with some 170 civilians being used as "human shields."
Climaco said the negotiating team is trying to contact one of the leaders of the hostage-takers, Ustadz Habier Malik.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines – Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) said at least 87 of the hostages are in Barangay Kasanyangan; 20 each in Barangays Sta. Catalina and Talon-Talon; and 10 in Camacop, Sta. Barbara.
An undetermined number of hostages were also being held in SDK Building and Fernandez Store.
The number of fatalities in the siege remains at 4, according to Wesmincom.
At least 21 were wounded since the standoff began Monday. – with reports from Jewel Reyes and Queenie Casimiro, ABS-CBN News Zamboanga