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Zambo 'attack' a response to Misuari arrest info — MNLF official

September 9, 2013 2:53pm
Troops set up blockades in Zambo City
Troops set up blockades in Zambo City. Troops block city streets as they inch closer to MNLF-held Zamboanga City hospital on Monday, September 9. Earlier, a soldier was killed, while at least six others were wounded, during a clash between the armed forces and suspected MNLF gunmen before dawn in the city. Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, head of the AFP-PIO, said the encounter occurred off the coast of Rio Hondo, a known hotspot in the city. Citing initial reports, Zagala said the encounter involved suspected MNLF fighters and the Naval Special Operations Group. Jocelyn P. Alvarez/PIA9
Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters went to Zamboanga City on Monday morning not to attack the city but as a response to an "unusual" military movement there to arrest MNLF founder Nur Misuari, the group's advocacy director said.

Interviewed by GMA News Online, John Petalcorin described the MNLF presence in Zamboanga City as a "pre-emptive response" to the supposed "large" troop movement in the city.

"Mayroon raw nakita na unusual large troops movement. They thought they're going to arrest Nur Misuari. The MNLF responded to protect him, to move him somewhere else," Petalcorin said by phone.

He said they received information that government security forces were deployed in Zamboanga City to arrest five MNLF members, including Misuari.

He also said Misuari did not order their men to enter Zamboanga City, adding the military should explain why they deployed troops to the area.

The military, on the other hand, confirmed that five MNLF members were arrested by the police in Zamboanga City on Sunday for possession of illegal firearms.

In a separate phone interview, Armed Forces public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the MNLF were the first ones to deploy their troops—around 300 to 400 armed members—in Zamboanga City allegedly to hoist their flag in the city hall.

“Sila ang nag-move in. They should be the one to explain why they sent 400 armed men early morning. Their objective is to proceed to the city hall and raise their flag," Zagala said.

The military said MNLF followers had occupied the city hall, hoisted their flag, and took at least 20 civilians as hostages.

Zagala linked the alleged attack to the MNLF's declaration of independence weeks ago — an allegation Petalcorin denied.

"We declared it in a very peaceful way. Walang relationship sa MNLF declaration of independence 'yan," Petalcorin said, adding the MNLF fighters may have chosen to enter the city hall to divert the conflict from the residential areas.

Asked about the hostages, Petalcorin said they have no information on this. "Ang MNLF, gagawin ang dapat gagawin to survive," he only said.

Zamboanga City Mayor Isabella Climaco-Salazar, citing information from the Zamboanga City Police, said six people have already been killed in the violence, while 24 others were wounded. — KBK, GMA News
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