Military air strikes resume in Zambo
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Military attack helicopters launched air strikes anew yesterday to flush out remnants of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction of Nur Misuari that have been fighting government forces for the past two weeks.
Two Air Force MG520 helicopters from the 3rd Air Division hit the rebels with machine gun fire near the boundary of barangays Sta. Catalina and Sta. Barbara where an estimated 50 guerrillas led by Habier Malik have dug in.
Police said troopers shot dead a rebel who tried to take a woman hostage inside a house in barangay Talon-Talon near Sta. Catalina.
Authorities said the rebel tried to accost the woman who had just returned to her house from the evacuation center, but responding policemen shot him dead.
Military officials believe the rebels were trying to reach the mangrove area near the two villages to escape the military assault.
The new air strikes were launched after the rebels torched several houses at about 1 p.m. yesterday in Sta. Barbara, which the military believed was a tactic to divert the military offensive.
Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, spokesman for the military operations, said troops have closed in on the rebels as fighting continues.
He said the rebels and their hostages are hiding in the cluster of houses near the boundary of Sta. Catalina and Sta. Barbara. The houses occupied by the rebels were made of concrete and situated in narrow alleys that run through connecting sitios of Bugok in Sta. Catalina and Kasanyangan village, which are all adjacent to the mangrove areas.
“The troops are closing in, but of course safety of the hostages is still paramount,” Zagala said.
Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, spokesman for Police Regional Office 9 (PRO), said that since the standoff last Sept. 9, the rebels suffered 98 killed and 99 captured while 24 others surrendered.
Officials said 11 civilians have been killed and 70 others were wounded, while government forces suffered 15 killed and 143 wounded as security forces cleared Zamboanga City of MNLF rebels that took more than 100 civilians hostage.
Among the troops killed was 2Lt. Florencio Meneses, 27, of barangay Tibag, Pulilan, Bulacan and a member of an elite 7th Scout Ranger Company who was hit by sniper fire last Saturday. He died yesterday morning at the Ciudad Zamboanga Hospital.
Meneses was a graduate of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) whose parents are both overseas Filipino workers.
Last Thursday, 1Lt. Kristopher Rama, 30, of PMA Class 2008 and also of Bulacan and member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Light Reaction Company, was shot dead by an MNLF sniper.
A suspected MNLF “spy” was killed while another was captured in a police operation in Tetuan district Monday afternoon, according to a police official.
Chief Inspector Elmer Acua, police station 6 commander, said policemen were conducting patrol operations when they spotted three men acting suspiciously.
Acua said policemen accosted the suspects and questioned them. One of the suspects tried to grab the M4 rifle of one of the policemen, resulting in a brief scuffle and the suspects ran away. The policemen shot and killed one of the suspects while another was captured. The third suspect managed to escape on board a motorcycle.
Further investigation disclosed the cellular phone of the slain suspect, who was carrying various identification cards, contained photographs of soldiers. With Delon Porcalla