To a safer place: Students running pass an armoured military vehicle as they evacuate from a compound near an area where members of the MNLF occupied villages in Zamboanga City. — EPA
PETALING JAYA: Malaysians in Zamboanga are safe after reports emerged that heavily-armed rebels launched attacks that have shut down the Philippine coastal city, said Malaysian ambassador to the Philippines Datuk Mohd Zamri Mohd Kassim.
He said so far, no Malaysians have been caught in the fighting between the rebels and Philippine military forces.
“We are in close contact with the Philippine police and military, who are updating us on the situation there.
“We will issue safety alerts for Malaysians as soon as possible,” he said yesterday.
The attack led to a standoff between the Moro rebels and the Philippine military, with shops, hotels and businesses closed.
Footage on Philippine media show armoured personnel carriers speeding around empty streets at dawn, while road blocks were set up everywhere.
AFP reported that a group of 100 heavily-armed rebels opposed to the southern Philippines peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) launched the attacks at dawn yesterday.
The peace talks are being brokered by Malaysia.
The rebels entered Zamboanga by boat, triggering clashes that left at least one soldier dead and six wounded.
Fighting later spread to the city, with the rebels taking 20 civilian hostages to thwart government forces.
The rebels are reportedly followers of Nur Misuari, who is one of the leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which is an MILF rival group.
Misuari’s faction of the fractured MNLF, which he founded in the early 1970s, had last month declared that he was breaking away because he believed his group was being sidelined from the peace talks.
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