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Rebels stocked ammo, food in houses long ago

Zamboanga, hostages, Manila Bulletin, MNLF, standoff, rebels

A soldier takes his position as residents abandon their homes during the second day of the standoff between the Muslim rebels and Philippine government forces Tuesday Sept. 10, 2013 at the southern port city of Zamboanga, in southern Philippines. About 200 Muslim rebels, enraged by a broken peace deal with the Philippine government, held scores of hostages as human shields . More battle-ready troops and police were flown to the southern port city of Zamboanga in a bid to end the crisis. The troops have surrounded the Moro National Liberation Front guerrillas with their hostages in four coastal villages since the crisis erupted Monday. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Hostages freed by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters have recounted just how prepared were the rebels in staging the attack of Zamboanga.

Maricel Teves, one of the wounded hostages freed by the rebels, said her captors had medicines and they treated her. Teves said the rebels knew the area and they moved around the villages of Santa Catalina, Santa Barbara, Kasanyangan and Rio Hondo. She said the rebels told her that they planned the attack before Ramadan and that their firearms are already I these areas.

Junior Morte, 60 who was also one of the freed hostages, said the MNLF rebels conserved their ammunition, and would shoot only when they have to defend their position. Morte said MNLF leader Habier Malik had maps and contacts in the villages of Rio Hondo, Mariki, Talon-Talon and Mampang and that he and his men had enough food and ammunition.

Morte, who escaped from the rebels on Sept. 13, said the MNLF fighters did not carry boxes of ammunition.

“They just go to the houses where they left their supplies of ammunition and food,” he said.

Meanwhile, government troops have recovered a wooden-hulled boat and some smaller sea craft called “jungkung” at the islet of Sumatra off the coast of Barangay Talon-Talon after they overrun the islet where the rebels camped.

Government troops suspect that the sea crafts were used by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters to invade Zamboanga on Sept. 9. Sumatra is nearer to Talon-Talon, but also accessible to Mariki through small inlets and is surrounded by mangroves.

Military reports disclosed that the vessel and jungkungs have blood stains, firearms and ammunition, MNLF uniform and maps of Zamboanga City including vital documents. The boat can carry more than 100 people and each “jungkung” has a capacity of 30 passengers.

Troops shelled the Sumatra area and other spots nearby with light artilleries from 4:30 a.m. to 5 a.m. on Thursday as the remaining MNLF Misuari loyalists led by Habier Malik retreated to the islet from Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina and Rio Hondo.

Advancing soldiers also recovered some bodies of MNLF rebels. Some MNLF rebels who are still in the area have vowed to fight and die as martyrs.

As the crisis entered its 18th day on Thursday, six more hostages were rescued by soldiers and 45 more MNLF rebels were captured after 37 others surrendered last Wednesday.

On Friday morning, government forces recovered unidentified explosives ordnance UXO (60mm mortar) at the vicinity of Purok 7, Barangay Mampang, Zamboanga City

As of 12 p.m, Sept. 26, the police regional office for Zamboanga peninsula reported that a total of 18 soldiers and five policemen were killed and 170 soldiers and 14 cops were wounded.

Based on police reports, 124 MNLF were killed during since the fighting started, while 247 have been captured and 24 have surrendered. In addition, at least 12 civilians were also killed and 72 were wounded. Government troops has so far rescued 184 civilians used as human shield by the MNLF fighters.

A military report also said that some of the MNLF fighters taunted soldiers, shouting: “Come here so we can behead you!”