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MNLF rebels attack Zamboanga, take hostages

Hundreds of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) armed men of former chairman Nur Misuari launched an attack on Zamboanga City early Monday and immediately took hostages. Their primary demand is to be able to declare independence from the Philippine government.

School and work have been suspended as government troops and rebels clash. Zamboanga Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said the entire province is now on heightened alert.

Twenty people were reportedly taken as hostages as the rebels advance near the Zamboanga City Hall. The mayor said the hostages were taken from Barangay Sta. Catalina. The military have barricaded the area, reports said.

A navy was killed during the encounter and six others were wounded.

Gen. Domingo Tutaan, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said a crisis management committee is already on the ground to manage the current standoff between the government and rebel troops. Tutaan said they hope to contain the crisis in the current area where it’s happening and that it would end peacefully.

Under secretary Joel Lorena of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) made an appeal to the MNLF forces to stop their hostile act and allow for a peaceful dialogue with the government. He believes the MNLF launched the attack because they feel they are being left out in the ongoing review of the peace accord.