News / Asia

Philippines Says Zamboanga Crisis 'Over'

Suspected Muslim rebels whom the military said were either captured or surrendered, arrive at a police station for processing in Zamboanga City, southern Philippines, Sept. 26, 2013.
Suspected Muslim rebels whom the military said were either captured or surrendered, arrive at a police station for processing in Zamboanga City, southern Philippines, Sept. 26, 2013.
Simone Orendain
— The National Defense chief of the Philippines said Saturday a three-week long standoff is over between government forces and a Muslim rebel faction they say kept about 200 people as human shields in a southern port city. 

The Department of National Defense said the crisis in Zamboanga City was over, but troops are continuing operations to remove the last remaining fighters of a Moro National Liberation Front faction.

Armed Forces spokesman Brigadier General Domingo Tutaan said forces were doing a thorough search of marshlands and areas in and around Zamboanga neighborhoods where faction members positioned themselves during the standoff that began September 9.

“So it’s really clearing in the strict sense of it, of any member of the Misuari faction, who are probably hiding or holed out in the area, avoiding or trying to elude arrest," he said.

While 195 hostages are free, Tutaan said the military could not say with “100 percent” certainty that there were no more hostages in rebel hands.

More than 150 people have died in the fighting and more than two-thirds of those killed were rebel faction members. Tutaan said at least 375 rebels were involved in the incident that began after the military learned of an alleged plan by the group to hoist a separatist flag in Zamboanga City Hall. The military said the rebels then used scores of civilians as human shields.

  • Government troopers arrive to reinforce their comrades after an army officer was killed in the ongoing operation against Muslim rebels, Zamboanga, Philippines, Sept. 19, 2013.
  • Evacuees line up to receive food as fighting between government forces and Muslim rebels continued, Zamboanga, Philippines, Sept. 19, 2013.
  • Residents line up for a shower in a stadium turned into an evacuation center in Zamboanga, Philippines, Sept. 18, 2013.
  • Villagers who fled the fighting between government forces and Muslim rebels rest in their tents along a boulevard in Zamboanga, Philippines, Sept. 18, 2013.
  • Boats of villagers fleeing the fighting between government forces and Muslim rebels crowd a port in Zamboanga, Philippines, Sept. 18, 2013.
  • Government troops fire mortars during renewed fighting between government forces and Muslim rebels, who have taken scores of hostages, in Zamboanga city in the southern Philippines, Sept. 16, 2013.
  • Government troops prepare an assault on Muslim rebels in Zamboanga, Philippines, Sept. 13, 2013.
  • Government soldiers wearing ammunition prepare to attack Muslim rebels in Zamboanga, Philippines, Sept. 13, 2013.
  • Government troopers prepare for an assault on Muslim rebels in Zamboanga, Philippines, Sept. 13, 2013.
  • Firemen rush to put out a fire that razed several homes as government troopers continue their assault on Muslim rebels in Zamboanga, Philippines, Sept. 12, 2013.
  • A man throws water into a burning house in Zamboanga, Philippines, Sept. 12, 2013.
  • Residents believed to be hostages wave white cloths as they shout at troops to stop their operation in the continuing standoff with Muslim rebels, Zamboanga, Philippines, Sept.11, 2013.
  • Residents who abandoned their homes carry their belongings during a standoff in Zamboanga, Philippines, Sept. 10, 2013.

Government operations included air strikes and what they called “calibrated” or focused attacks on the group that they said belongs to a faction led by former MNLF chairman Nur Misuari. Misuari has been out of the public eye since the conflict began.

Ustadz Habier Malik, a ranking MNLF commander under Nur Misuari, is believed to have led the group in Zamboanga.

Western Mindanao University professor and peace advocate Grace Rebollos told reporters in Manila yesterday, that the government must learn new ways of handling rebellion in the part of the country where Muslim tribal norms were upheld. She said Malik’s status as an “ustadz” or teacher of Islam was significant.

“So that when one is pushed to the wall and he reacts in a way that vanquishes him or her, then that becomes a martyr. That becomes a hero. And when that becomes a martyr or a hero and it’s given religious undertones, then you’re seeing certain backlashes from the communities that these people used to handle,” said Rebollos.

Muslim rebels and government have been fighting for four decades in a conflict that has left more than 150,000 people dead. In 1996, Misuari signed a peace agreement with the Philippines, which created an autonomous Muslim region in the south. But he took up the fight again in 2001, saying government did not hold to the terms.

Right now, the Philippine government and the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are in the final stages of a peace pact. Misuari has expressed misgivings about this pact, which would effectively replace the autonomous region with a new self-governing area.

Zamboanga City officials say more than 10,000 homes were burned to the ground in the five neighborhoods where skirmishes took place. At the height of the clashes, close to 120,000 residents fled their homes and officials are now scrambling to provide humanitarian assistance to scores of thousands of people in evacuation centers. The city, a major commerce hub, also suffered economic losses in the millions of dollars daily because of the conflict.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid