Skip to main content

Muslim rebels release five hostages as tense Mindanao stand-off continues

By Peter Shadbolt, CNN
September 10, 2013 -- Updated 1050 GMT (1850 HKT)
A combat police force sniper gets into position in downtown Zamboanga City in the Philippines on September 9, 2013.
A combat police force sniper gets into position in downtown Zamboanga City in the Philippines on September 9, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • MNLF rebels release five hostages, four of them children, as stand-off enters second day
  • An estimated 180 were trapped by fighting but it was unclear how many people were hostage
  • A rebel told local media that the group had been holding 35 hostages
  • At least six people were killed yesterday in clashes between the rebels and armed forces

(CNN) -- Philippine police and armed forces negotiated the release of five hostages on Tuesday as a tense stand-off with rebels from the Muslim Moro National Liberation Front entered its second day in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines.

"This morning five people, including four children, who were held hostage in Talon-talon were released by the rebels," Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said in a statement, adding that one policeman was wounded in the thigh in an exchange of fire on Tuesday morning.

At least six people were killed yesterday in exchanges of gunfire between the rebels and armed forces.

Authorities said it was unclear how many hostages were still being held by the estimated 300 armed Muslim rebels in the blockaded areas of Zamboanga City, a mainly Christian city on the southern coast of Mindanao.

Philippine Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas told a press conference that authorities believed as many as 180 people -- which he described as "human shields" -- could be being held hostage.

Landmark peace deal in Philippines
Philippine economy on the grow

"These are very soft estimates," said Roxas, who flew in from Manila to supervise operations. Hundreds of troops have been deployed to Zamboanga in response to the crisis.

"It's hard to determine (whether) they're hostages or just residents of the area, but we are taking these numbers quite seriously and that is why the military and the police have exercised restraint."

Roxas did not say whether the rebels had made any demands

"There are ongoing talks, formal and informal, in various stages of maturity," he said. "We are also seeking to validate the bonafides of those presenting themselves as mediators so that we are not led astray in these talks."

An MNLF spokesman told the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper that the group was holding 35 hostages.

"We seized them by the roadside so the soldiers won't shoot when they see us," he said.

According to a statement issued by Climaco-Salazar, the crisis began at around 4.30 a.m. local time Monday 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.

There are ongoing talks, formal and informal, in various stages of maturity
Mar Roxas

She said the rebels had planned to march on the city hall.

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.

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.

CNN's Kathy Quiano and Tim Schwarz contributed to this story.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0948 GMT (1748 HKT)
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0212 GMT (1012 HKT)
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0012 GMT (0812 HKT)
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1054 GMT (1854 HKT)
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1431 GMT (2231 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