Philippine clashes rage despite truce effort

Vice president heads to Zamboanga to discuss truce with MNLF fighters holding civilian hostages, as gunbattles rage.

Last Modified: 14 Sep 2013 17:54
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay has headed to the southern city of Zamboanga in a bid to broker a truce with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters holding scores of civilian hostages while locked in a deadly stand-off with government forces.

A ceasefire plan was tabled by Binay to rebel leader Nur Misuari and Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin late on Friday after five days of fighting that have left 52 people dead and 70 wounded in the port of Zamboanga.

However, Gazmin "clarified that a ceasefire has never been implemented", a government spokeswoman said in a statement read on government radio.

"Therefore [military and police] operations continued throughout the night and will continue as necessary," she added.

During an interview with ABS-CBN television on Saturday, Gazmin insisted that any truce was dependent on a ceasefire from the rebels, who "are firing as we speak".

A spokesman for the vice-president said Binay had talked to the leader of the MNLF in the port city and had proposed a ceasefire that would come into effect at midnight on Saturday.

Al Jazeera's Jamela Alindogan, reporting from Zamboanga, said that there was earlier discussion that a ceasefire had been agreed between the vice president and MNLF founder, but on the ground there was no let-up in the fighting.

"We are hearing firing and mortars. The military, surrounding the area where MLNF fighters are holed up, still has not retreated," she said.

Efforts to free hostages

Defence Secretary Gazmin, who was in Zamboanga, said security forces were continuing efforts to free the hostages held by the MNLF in several coastal districts, where they have also set fire to many homes.

Some Philippine newspapers and radio stations reported that the truce was to have taken effect as early as midnight Friday but there was no sign of a ceasefire in the city of nearly one million people on Saturday.

Misuari's MNLF had waged a 25-year guerrilla war for independence in the country's south before signing a peace treaty in 1996 that granted the Muslim minority limited self-rule.

He disappeared from public view when the MNLF launched the attack on Zamboanga on Monday and has accused the government of violating the terms of the 1996 treaty by negotiating a separate peace deal with a rival faction.

That faction, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), is in the final stages of peace talks with Manila and is expected to take over an expanded autonomous Muslim region in the south by 2016.

President Benigno Aquino, who is currently visiting Zamboanga, said the talks aim to end decades of rebellion that had claimed 150,000 lives in the country's Muslim southern regions.


Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
Booming global trade in 50-million-year-old amber stones is lucrative, controversial, and extremely dangerous.
Legendary Native-American High Bird was trained in ancient warrior traditions, which he employed in World War II.
Hounded opposition figure says he's hoping for the best at sodomy appeal but prepared to return to prison.
Fears of rising Islamophobia and racial profiling after two soldiers killed in separate incidents.
Group's culture of summary justice is back in Northern Ireland's spotlight after new sexual assault accusations.