Published: Tue, September 10, 2013
First Posted 9/9/13 8:58 PM | Updated as of 9/10/13 7:17 AM
By Miguel Ortilla
As early as Sunday night, over 30 armed members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) had already been spotted in Zamboanga City, Senior Supt. Wilben Mayor, spokesman of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said on Monday, hours after rogue MNLF members attacked five coastal barangays in the city.
At around 10:30 p.m., city policemen were able to arrest six of the MNLF members in Barangay Rio Hondo, one of the villages attacked. But they did not go through any interrogation.
At 1 a.m. on Monday, a boatload of over 100 more rebels came in by the coastline of Rio Hondo and exchanged gunfire with Navy troops, one of whom was killed.
At 5 a.m., members PNP Special Action Force engaged some of the fighters at nearby at Barangay Santa Barbara.
By 10 a.m., the rebels began firing mortars to push the government troops away.
By this time, it was confirmed that rebels in Barangay Santa Catalina, just a few kilometers from the city hall, were holding hostage 20 to 30 people, whom they were using as shields.
In a phone interview with Solar News, Chief Supt. Juanito Vaño, director of Police Regional Office 9, said government forces could not engage the rebels for fear of hitting the hostages.
By this time, the rebels also confirmed that two from their ranks were killed in action. This was confirmed by Gapul Hadjiru, central commander of the MNLF Central Command.
At past noon, the Zamboang City Crisis Management Committee announced that the entire Barangay Santa Catalina, which has over 200 residents, was under siege.
PNP spokesman Mayor clarified, however, that the residents were not being held hostage but were caught in the crossfire.
"They cannot just leave the area," Mayor said.
As of 3 p.m., the PNP confirmed eight dead – one policeman, one military man, four civilians, and two MNLF rebels – and at least 14 others wounded.
The PNP said the situation was under control and there would be no need for an additional deployment of forces. But it could not say for how long the clashes would last.
"As of now, the situation is still evolving," Mayor said.
By this time, Interior Secretary Roxas and Defense Secretary Gazmin was in Zamboanga City to check on the situation.