Zamboanga, Philippines – People in this war-torn southern Philippine city remain tense amid the ongoing battle between security forces and Muslim rebels that’s lasted for more than a week.
The fighting that caught the world’s attention has left nearly 100 people dead and more than 80,000 evacuated to displacement camps.
More than 100 people are being held hostage by followers of Nur Misuari, the leader and founder of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which has occupied villages in Zamboanga since September 9. Thousands of residents have left for safer areas out of fear for their safety.
“We are closely monitoring the evolving situation in Zamboanga,” said Pascal Mauchle, head of the ICRC’s delegation in the Philippines. “Fighting is taking place in an area of the city where many civilians may still be living. Therefore, we call on those involved in the fighting to act with extreme caution to ensure civilian life and properties are spared at all times.”
The hostilities came weeks after Misuari declared independence of the southern region of Mindanao. His group signed a peace accord with the government in 1996, but the MNLF says the deal has not been fully implemented.
Misuari is also opposed to the ongoing peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. MILF and the government are set to resume negotiations later this month in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.