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
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1720 GMT (0120 HKT)
The beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley by ISIS militants brings into focus the risks faced by reporters in conflict zones.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1224 GMT (2024 HKT)
About $35,000 was taken from the bank accounts of four passengers on board Flight 370.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1353 GMT (2153 HKT)
Five survivors of acid attacks capture India's attention with a "ground breaking" photo shoot.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1732 GMT (0132 HKT)
The execution of a journalist by a British-accented jihadist is a direct challenge to the international community. It's time for the U.S. to move, writes Frida Ghitis.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1219 GMT (2019 HKT)
In an exclusive CNN interview, Lance Armstrong admits to having a "f**k you" attitude.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0858 GMT (1658 HKT)
Summer isn't over yet. These new hotels are keeping it alive and fresh.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
You've seen her turn on the catwalk, but her income might make your head spin.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 0036 GMT (0836 HKT)
The pain that Michael Brown's parents are going through is something Sybrina Fulton can relate to. She, too, lost a son in a controversial shooting.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0904 GMT (1704 HKT)
19-year-old Udi Segal explains why he won't join the country's military.
Drinkers guzzled an incredible 10.3 billion liters of this brand in 2013, making it the world's No.1 beer. And you may have never heard of it.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT