Thursday, 12 September 2013 | MYT 1:29 PM
Moro rebels attack Basilan
ZAMBOANGA CITY: Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels have attacked Lamintan city in Basilan island, southern Philippines on Thursday morning in an attempt to divert the military's attention.
Senior Superintendent Mario Dapilloza, Basilan provincial police office director was quoted by the Philippines media as saying that the attack happened at around 8.50am in Barangay Campo Uno.
Dapilloza said that pursuit operations against the rebels are ongoing.
Three members of the Philippine Army's Scout Ranger battalion identified as Ruel Martinez, Wilvan Caro and Ernesto Landagura were wounded.
City Vice Mayor Roderick Furigay said that five people were reported missing after the attack at the predominantly Christian city.
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujiv Hataman said the MNLF's latest attack was repulsed.
Hataman said that the police and the military in the city had been on alert after sightings of armed men, believed to be MNLF members.
He said that the city's resident had evacuated on Wednesday.
Basilan island province is a boat ride away from Zamboanga city, where MNLF fighters led by at least five of the rebel group's commanders have been holding their hostage since Monday, when government troops repulsed their attempt to erect a rebel flag at the city hall.
The three-day crisis has virtually paralysed Zamboanga, a lively trading city of nearly a million people, with most flights and ferry services suspended. Communities near the clashes resembled a war zone, with armored troop carriers lining streets, troops massing at a school and snipers taking positions atop buildings. A mosque and its minaret were pockmarked with bullet holes.
Marines were able to push back the rebels occupying a mosque in Barangay Sta. Barbara on Wednesday.
Authorities said that an undetermined number of rebels were wounded or killed as they attempted to keep the mosque under their control.
Latest reports said that at least nine people, including civilians, have been killed in the three-day standoff.
Nearly 15,000 villagers have also fled from the fighting and took shelter at a grandstand in a seaside sports complex and schools.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said that troops were under orders to prevent the rebels from straying beyond the communities they have seized or getting reinforcements.
The rebels signed a peace deal in 1996, but their faction leader accuses the government of reneging on a promise to develop the impoverished, restive region.
The rebel leader, Nur Misuari, has isolated himself and set out on a collision course with the government when he voiced opposition to the ongoing peace talks between the Philippines and the currently-dominant rebel movement, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)
Meanwhile, Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco said that Misuari has disowned the actions of his men who have been engaging government forces in a standoff in Zamboanga City.
A post by the Zamboanga City local government on its Twitter account quoted Climaco as saying that she was able to talk with Misuari on Wednesday night.