News / Asia

Philippine Forces Step Up Offensive Against Muslim Rebels

Members of the Philippine Marines hold their weapons aboard a truck as they block a road during fighting between government soldiers and Muslim rebels of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga city in the southern Philippines September 15, 2013.Members of the Philippine Marines hold their weapons aboard a truck as they block a road during fighting between government soldiers and Muslim rebels of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga city in the southern Philippines September 15, 2013.
x
Members of the Philippine Marines hold their weapons aboard a truck as they block a road during fighting between government soldiers and Muslim rebels of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga city in the southern Philippines September 15, 2013.
Members of the Philippine Marines hold their weapons aboard a truck as they block a road during fighting between government soldiers and Muslim rebels of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga city in the southern Philippines September 15, 2013.
Simone Orendain
In the southern Philippines, at least 55 people have died and more than 65,000 people have fled their homes while scores of hostages remain in the hands of Muslim rebels.  Clashes between government forces and members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have intensified as they entered the seventh day.
 
The Armed Forces of the Philippines say troops are stepping up their fight in the major port city of Zamboanga against about 200 members of the MNLF.
 
Armed Forces spokesman, Brigadier General Domingo Tutaan, says the military along with police forces are now carrying out a “calibrated” offensive.  But he did not give details of what the measured tactic entails.
 
“It’s not just simply firing at the enemy, so to speak.  We have to make sure that these civilians who are held against their will and are used as human shields are not caught in the crossfire,” says Tutaan.
 
The spokesman added that the rebels are “continuously bringing civilians in harm’s way” with mortar and sniper fire.
 
Fighting started early Monday morning when the military says it interceded after it learned armed members of an MNLF faction tried to enter Zamboanga to raise a separatist flag at city hall.  A faction spokesman has said they wanted to hold a peace rally to drum up support for the creation of an Islamic republic.  The military repelled the rebels, who they say took civilians for cover and kept them isolated to five coastal villages on the fringes of Zamboanga.
 
Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay tried to broker a cease-fire with MNLF faction leader Nur Misuari, who is believed to be behind this incident. 
 
The truce was expected to take effect Saturday. But the attempt failed as top officials on the ground noted continuous firing from the rebels.  Government forces have since intensified their offensive, taking back certain MNLF-held locations in the villages, according to the military.
 
President Benigno Aquino has been in Zamboanga to head up crisis management efforts.  He told thousands of evacuees the conflict would end at the “soonest possible time.” 
 
A city under siege

Zamboanga City Executive Secretary Michael Saavedra says the city is trying to get back to normal. 
 
“Some parts of the city, like the downtown, for example, [are] still a ‘ghost city.’  But the suburbs for example, [are] already- it’s not normal but you see people going around,” says Saavedra.
 
Saavedra says five banks away from the fighting hotspots agreed to open Sunday after shutting their doors when the fighting started.   Zamboanga City closed schools and canceled work at most government offices, while flights to and from the area remain grounded.
 
Saavedra says the city is caught in the middle of a national peace and order issue. 
 
The MNLF signed a peace pact with the Philippines in 1996, but in recent months it has raised concerns that government has not held up to the terms.
 
The government is currently negotiating the final stages of a peace agreement with a larger Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.  And the MNLF has expressed displeasure at this new agreement, which would effectively replace an autonomous Muslim region that was formed under terms of the 1996 pact.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Dis Grace from: UK
September 15, 2013 6:27 PM
wow... VOA...!!! you mentioned Muslims - for the first time... congratulations... the way VOA covered these Islamic atrocities, I was under the impression the the Philippine heroes were fighting Jewish or Catholic terrorists

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid