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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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 Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

36 people are confirmed dead, but some 270 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid