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

Photogallery Ukraine: Russian Forces Tightening Grip on East

And new United Nations report documents human rights abuses committed by both sides in conflict More

Locust Swarms Fill Antananarivo Skies

FAO-led control efforts halted plague More

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Experts say international coordination needed to follow the money trail and bring down rhino horn kingpins 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.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid