Philippine rebels attack 2nd southern town

Posted on Sep 12 2013 - 5:55pm by admin

September 12, 2013, 2:15 pm TWN

Philippine rebels attack 2nd southern townZAMBOANGA, Philippines — Philippine troops battled Muslim rebels on two fronts Thursday, after the insurgents attacked a second town near the southern port where they are holding scores of residents hostage in a standoff with government forces.

The rebels attacked predominantly Christian outskirts of Lamitan town in Basilan province on Thursday morning, said Vice Mayor Roderick Furigay. Five people were missing and two wounded, he said.

A regional governor, Mujiv Hataman, said that the assault was repulsed. Authorities said earlier they were monitoring the movement of rebel forces in that area and Hataman said that residents had already evacuated Wednesday.

Basilan island province is a boat ride away from Zamboanga city, where Moro National Liberation Front fighters have been holding more than 100 hostages since Monday, when government troops repulsed their attempt to erect a rebel flag at city hall.

The three-day crisis has virtually paralyzed Zamboanga, a lively trading city of nearly a million people, with most flights and ferry services suspended. Communities near the clashes resembled a war zone, with armored troop carriers lining streets, troops massing at a school and snipers taking positions atop buildings. A mosque and its minaret were pockmarked with bullet holes.

Nearly 15,000 villagers have fled from the fighting and took shelter at a grandstand in a seaside sports complex and schools. Troops were under orders to prevent the rebels from straying beyond the communities they have seized or getting reinforcements, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said.

The rebels signed a peace deal in 1996, but their faction leader accuses the government of reneging on a promise to develop the impoverished, restive region. The rebel leader, Nur Misuari, has isolated himself and set out on a collision course with the government when he voiced opposition to the ongoing peace talks between the Philippines and the currently-dominant rebel movement, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The talks have steadily progressed toward a new and potentially larger Muslim autonomy deal, but Misuari felt left out. Last month, his group issued new threats to secede by establishing its own republic.

Government troopers aboard an Armored Personnel Carrier fire at Muslim rebels in an operation to rescue scores of hostages being used as human shields by the rebels on the fourth straight day Thursday, Sept. 12, at Zamboanga city in southern Philippines.(AP)

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