Muslim Rebels in the southern Philippines have taken dozens of hostages after shoot-outs with the military. The rebels are supporters of renegade governor Nur Misuari, whom the government charges breached a five-year old peace-for-autonomy deal.
Correspondent Scott Bobb has talked with Philippine National Security Adviser Roilo Golez on the latest fighting in the southern city of Zamboanga
Scott Bobb: Mr. Roilo Golez what is the situation currently in the Philippines regarding the incident in Zamboanga?
Roilo Golez: The military had been monitoring a satellite complex because of reports that there are so many armed men there. And then finally, this morning I understand from General Roy Cimatu, who is the commanding general of the Southcom, that these men tried to break out and they also took hostages from the nearby subdivision, about 40 of them. There was a firefight, there was some strikes by the military [and] 25 were killed in action, 19 from the side of these armed men, and one from the military and some civilians were hit in the cross fire. Right now, of the 40 about 20 children have been released already. And this group is now talking about being allowed to go back to their area in ARMM, the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, and given safe passage.
SB: You said 20 children have been released? Have the rebels, or the armed people received anything in exchange for this?
RG: There is no exchange. I think they realized that it was terrible for them to hold these young children. In fact it is terrible for them to hold any hostages.
SB: So based on the calculations how many hostages do they still hold?
RG: I understand from General Cimatu that there are 20 remaining hostages. Right now, talks are starting. The acting governor of ARMM Governor Alvarez is already on his way to talk with this armed group who are reportedly actually men of ARMM.
SB: And where are these armed men now?
RG: They are there near the Cabatangan complex, they are in a place called Pasonanca, which about five kilometers away from City Hall.
SB: What is the plan of the Philippine government now? What do you plan to do?
RG: Right now we see this as the last gasps of a dying group of Misuari. Misuari is now jailed in Malaysia and it is possible that he might face serious charges there, not to mention the serious charges that he will be facing here in the Philippines.
SB: Do you have any word on when or whether Mr. Misuari will be returned to the Philippines?
RG: No word because we are giving Malaysia all the respect by not interfering in their own investigation.