Skip to main content

Muslim rebels hold 20 hostages in Zamboanga City, Philippines

From Paul Armstrong and Tim Schwarz, CNN
September 9, 2013 -- Updated 0720 GMT (1520 HKT)
A soldier is helped by comrades after being injured during skirmishes with rebels in Zamboanga City on September 9.
A soldier is helped by comrades after being injured during skirmishes with rebels in Zamboanga City on September 9.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Officials: Six dead during clashes with Muslim rebels in southern Philippines
  • At least 20 people taken hostage in mainly Christian town of Zamboanga City
  • Moro National Liberation Front want autonomous region for Muslims
  • The MNLF signed 1996 peace deal but some members continue violent struggle

(CNN) -- As many as 400 armed Muslim rebels are holding at least 20 people hostage in a southern Philippine city after coming ashore by boat, authorities said Monday.

Philippine police and armed forces have blockaded the areas of Zamboanga City, a mainly Christian city on the southern coast of Mindanao, where the rebels are holed up, Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar told CNN. She said the rebels had planned to march on the city hall.

City officials hope to talk to the rebels, who are believed to be from the Moro National Liberation Front, to try to negotiate the hostages' release, she said.

The MNLF, a separatist movement founded in 1971 by Nur Misuari with the aim of establishing an autonomous region for Muslims in this mainly Catholic country, signed a peace deal with the central government in Manila in 1996 -- though some of its members have broken away to continue with a violent campaign.

According to a statement issued by Climaco-Salazar, the current crisis began at around 4.30 a.m. local time when government forces clashed with armed rebels heading for the city by boat. Six people, including a policeman, a navy serviceman and four civilians, were killed during the course of these clashes.

The statement added that six districts in this coastal city of 800,000 people have been affected by the "infiltration of alleged MNLF members," with 20 hostages taken in the district of Santa Catalina.

In a televised press conference Monday, a police spokesman said a further 200 people were currently stranded in the city because of the blockade by security forces. They are not being classified as hostages.

No demands have been made by the rebels, he added.

Under the terms of the 1996 agreement, Misuari was named as governor of an expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). He served until 2001.

Last month Misuari issued a "declaration of independence" for the Moro nation -- referring to Mindanao's indigenous Muslim population -- after complaining that the MNLF had been left out of a recent wealth-sharing agreement with an another insurgent group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has fought for decades to set up an independent Islamic state on the resource-rich island of Mindanao.

READ: rebels agree to wealth-sharing deal

CNN's Kathy Quiano contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 0916 GMT (1716 HKT)
Branded an "extremist" by China's state-run media, Joshua Wong isn't even old enough to drive.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 0655 GMT (1455 HKT)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised political pundits with his rapid rise to power. CNN meets the man behind the enigma.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
British journalist John Cantlie hadn't been seen in nearly two years. Now, he's the latest hostage to be paraded out by ISIS.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1049 GMT (1849 HKT)
British PM David Cameron has had the narrowest of political escapes.
The burial leader. The hospital gatekeeper. The disease detective. All telling powerful, stories from West Africa.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 2303 GMT (0703 HKT)
Alibaba's IPO is unlike anything investors have ever seen and could threaten other online retailers. Maggie Lake reports.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 0130 GMT (0930 HKT)
Indian PM Narendra Modi has said al Qaeda will fail if it seeks to spread its terror network into his country.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
Put yourself in the shoes (and sixth-century black robes) of ISIS' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the mysterious boss of the terror group.
September 20, 2014 -- Updated 1444 GMT (2244 HKT)
 Tennis Player Li Na attends the WTA Pre-Wimbledon Party as guests enjoy Ciroc Vodka presented by Dubai Duty Free at Kensington Roof Gardens on June 19, 2014 in London,
Asia's first grand slam singles champion Li Na has called time on her 15-year tennis career.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1409 GMT (2209 HKT)
Even death couldn't part two skeletons excavated from a lost chapel in an English county, found with their fingers entwined.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT