Day 8: AFP launches air strikes vs MNLF rebels
MANILA, Philippines - It started Monday last week. About 200 Moro National Liberation Front rebels entered the coastal barangays of Zamboanga City and took about 180 hostages.
The ragtag army is a shadow of the old MNLF, which negotiated a peace deal with the government in 1996.
This attack was their show of force in defiance of the new peace deal the government is hammering with its break-away group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, now the more dominant rebel organization.
Carmela Fonbuena reports.
It's Day 8 of the Zamboanga Crisis.
It's not over but government troops are making headway against the faction of the Moro National Liberation Front, led by Commander Habier Malik.
The MNLF shut down the city, turning 4 barangays into a battleground.
Government statistics say at least 62 are dead. 112 are wounded.
70,000 evacuated and hundreds of houses razed to the ground.
LT COL RAMON ZAGALA
Our forces are working doubly hard, using all the assets availblae for us in order that we have a speedy resoluton and of course keeping in mind always the safety of the civilian populace, most especially our hostagesm that their lives may be preseervd as well as the other civilians who are trapped.
For the first time air strikes are used, targeting Rio Hondo, a coastal barangay where Malik is believed to be holed up. The military says the rebels are down to 100 from the original 200 who attacked the city.
Malik, the top aide of MNLF founder Nur Misuari, says he is ready to die.
The rebels continue to respond with their remaining might.
There's also fear that fleeing rebels could launch attacks outside the battle zone.
ZAMBOANGA CITY MAYOR
To the barangay officials please always be on the alert. The enemies are fleeing the areas of constriciton and so you have to set up early warning systems. Set up ways to ensure that people roaming in your area are legitiimate residents of your area
Even as government steps up attacks, residents remain terrorized.
The standoff has dragged on for too long.
The Zamboanga crisis does not with the military defeating Malik's forces.
The standoff brought Zamboanga City down to its knees, severely damaging business, tourism and the morale of its people. The next challenge is how to rise again.
Carmela Fonbuena, Rappler Zamboanga City. - Rappler.com