Friday, September 13, 2013

Philippines: Islamist Insurgents Attack Zamboanga City for Fourth Day

According to EFE, Islamist insurgents launched an attack Thursday (September 12) on a second town in the southern Philippines, even as a standoff between rebels and army soldiers in Zamboanga City entered its fourth day.

At least two soldiers were wounded and five others are missing in the latest attack in Lamitan, a town on the island of Basilan, according to Deputy Mayor Roderick Furigay.

An army spokesman said the rebels belonged to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, which is linked to al-Qaeda.
COMMENT: Basilan is located just a few miles by sea from Zamboanga, located at the southwestern tip of the island of Mindanao. At least ten people have been killed in Zamboanga since between 100 and 400 heavily armed MNLF militants sought to hoist a rebel flag at city hall on Monday.

The situation remains tense and some shootouts have occurred between the guerrillas and soldiers in Zamboanga, most of whose 800,000 inhabitants are Christians.

A curfew is in force at night, classes have been canceled and offices remain closed, although gas stations, markets and pharmacies were open for business.

Several districts of the city were under the control of the rebels, who, according to different sources, are holding up to 200 people hostage.

The incidents in Zamboanga come a month after MNLF chief Nur Misuari declared the independence of Mindanao and other southern Philippine islands and complained that his group had been excluded from talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a splinter group formed in 1984. 

All foreign travelers should be keenly aware that most Western embassies have urged against their citizens traveling to the Islamist south, particularly Mindanao, for a number of years since the wholesale kidnapping of foreigners has risen to being a major profit center for both insurgents and the Abu Sayaaf alike.