10,160 Zambo houses razed
Death Toll At 128 As Troops Conduct ‘House-To-House’ Clearing Operations
September 23, 2013
At least 128 people have died and 10,160 houses razed to the ground as fighting between government security forces and rogue Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) elements in Zamboanga City entered its 14th day yesterday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said in separate reports.
The military is currently conducting massive “house-to-house” operations to clear out the remnants of the Nur Misuari-led Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) group in Zamboanga.
Data released by the military showed that of the 125 confirmed killed, 12 were civilians, 11 soldiers, three policemen, and 99 MNLF gunmen.
Maj. Angelo Guzman, AFP deputy chief of the Public Affairs Office (PAO), said these were the figures as of noon time Sunday.
Aside from the fatalities, Guzman also said 133 soldiers, 49 civilians, and 14 policemen are listed as wounded.
The military could not determine the number of wounded from the enemy side. They said 45 MNLF gunmen have surrendered, while 72 have been captured.
Likewise, the AFP said of the 180 to 200 people taken hostage by the MNLF fighters when the crisis broke out before dawn on Sept. 9, a total of 174 have been rescued.
The AFP likewise reported 64 high-powered and 13 low-powered firearms seized or recovered from the Moro rebels.
For its part, the NDRRMC said as of Sunday, 21,861 families or 111,061 people from 14 villages in Zamboanga City and one barangay in Zamboanga Sibugay have been displaced by the fighting. The Council said 20,071 families or 108,834 are now temporarily staying in 55 evacuation centers.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has formulated a P3.89-billion worth of early recovery and rehabilitation plan for the victims.
Aquino Leaves Zamboanga
Meanwhile, faced with mounting paperwork and other urgent national concerns, President Benigno S. Aquino III has ended his stay in Zamboanga City and flew back to Manila.
The President explained that he must address other pressing matters confronting the nation, including the relief efforts in areas devastated by super typhoon “Odette.”
Aquino, however, assured that the city of Zamboanga is in “very good hands” of senior Cabinet members while government troops continue to make headway in resolving the crisis.
The commander-in-chief had been staying in Zamboanga since Sept. 13 to oversee security operations against the gunmen who attacked the city. Just last Thursday, Aquino said he would try to stay in the city until the crisis is over.
Amid the calibrated military offensives against the remaining gunmen in Zamboanga, the President, meantime, said the government is preparing to file charges against MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari for the rebel attack.
Aquino said witnesses have come forward linking the former Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor to the Zamboanga standoff. He said some of the arrested MNLF fighters claimed they were duped by Misuari into joining a supposed peace rally in Zamboanga.
“Inuusig na rin natin si Misuari para managot dito. Mayroon tayong mga testigo na nag-uugnay sa kanya sa kaguluhan ditong diretsuhan [We will hold Misuari accountable for this. We have witnesses directly implicating him to the chaos here],” he said.
More state prosecutors have been deployed to Zamboanga to bolster the case against Misuari and his gunmen, according to the President.
He said they are also looking into the reported “lifeline” of the MNLF fighters that sustained their standoff in Zamboanga for the past several days. He noted that it seemed the supplies of the gunmen were “pre-positioned” or placed as the attack was being planned.
Hoping to end the bloodshed in Zamboanga City, the government has distributed more leaflets urging the remaining gunmen in the area to surrender.
“The efforts of our soldiers continue. In fact, they have dropped flyers in areas believed to be occupied by the elements of the Misuari faction asking them to surrender and end the hostilities,” Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Abigail Valte said in Filipino over government radio.
So far, Valte said there have been a number of gunmen who have laid down their arms since the leaflets were dropped. “We hope all them will respond,” she added.
The government earlier ruled out any ceasefire talks with the Misuari forces, saying the only option left for them is to surrender.
Valte said the military will continue to push forward to protect the residents of the city of Zamboanga from the gunmen.
“They are engaged in clearing operations. Using the words of (Interior and Local Government) Secretary (Mar) Roxas, the AFP and PNP are conducting house-to-house, block-to-block operations,” she said. (With reports from Genalyn D. Kabiling and Nonoy E. Lacson)