Nearly 100 MNLF men killed in Zambo siege
ZAMBOANGA CITY (2nd UPDATE) – Nearly 100 Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) men have been killed since the Zamboanga City standoff began, a Philippine Army official said Friday.
Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, commander of the Philippine Army's 7th Civil Relations Group, told ABS-CBNNews.com that 97 MNLF fighters loyal to founding chairman Nur Misuari have been killed since Monday last week.
At least 111 have either surrendered or been captured, Cabunoc added.
At a press conference, Cabunoc said four MNLF men were killed in a series of clashes with government troops between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. today in Sta. Barbara village.
Cabunoc said two soldiers were also wounded during a clearing operation in the said village. This brings the number of soldiers wounded in action to 111.
In a separate report, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said two civilians were hit by stray bullets along Lustre Street in Barangay Sta. Catalina.
Zagala said one of the latest skirmishes between the two sides erupted at 6:35 a.m. in Barangay Sta. Catalina, one of the few remaining areas where MNLF fighters are still holed up.
The two injured civilians were brought to Brent Hospital and Colleges Inc. Four senior citizens were also rescued during the skirmish in Sta. Catalina.
A fire also erupted in the same barangay, an indication the military said that armed rebels are ready for another gunfight. At least 850 homes have been razed since the standoff began.
Aside from barangays Sta. Catalina and Sta. Barbara, rebels are believed to be occupying houses and other structures in Rio Hondo and Mariki villages.
'MNLF men losing ground'
Cabunoc said the number of MNLF fighters led by commander Habier Malik is down to about 40 to 50.
He said some of these fighters have split into smaller groups and were already "leaderless."
Skirmishes on Thursday left 8 MNLF rebels dead and forced the surrender of 21 Misuari followers. Six more surrendered today, Cabunoc said.
A soldier was also killed during a clearing operation on Thursday afternoon, bringing the death toll on the side of government troops to 13: 10 soldiers and 3 policemen.
Cabunoc said the families of the killed soldiers will receive financial assistance from the government.
Meanwhile, the MNLF fighters were still holding an estimated 21 hostages, Cabunoc said.
At least 8 civilians have been killed and 48 wounded.
The nearly two-week long standoff has already displaced 118,819 individuals as of Wednesday, according to Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman. – with reports from Noel Alamar and Edwin Sevidal, dzMM