Wednesday, 11 September 2013 00:00
Fire struck following a powerful explosion yesterday afternoon at a residential area in Barangay Sta. Maria, where the followers of Nur Misuari-led Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction are holding hostage 10 people.
The blaze started at around 2:00 p.m. inside a congested barangay. It is still raging and razing about five houses as of posting time.
One of the responding firemen said it is hard to put out the fire as "on and off" fighting the between government forces and MNLF rebels is on progress.
Four firetrucks have already responded. However, they were not yet allowed to enter the village.
According to reports, the firefighters are still waiting for the clearance of the military, as snipers from the MNLF are present in the area.
Combined elements of police and military have contained about a hundred MNLF gunmen inside the crowded barangay just near the city's down town.
No confirmation yet whether the MNLF rebels were behind the fire. But there were information circulating that the fire was part of strategy to divert the attention of authorities.
Since Monday dawn, at least 6 people have been killed and more than 20 others wounded when MNLF rebels attacked five villages and held hostage several civilians apparantly being used as human shields.
Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco more than 2,000 people have fled the fighting and have sought shelter in temporary evacuation sites.
According to her, the Moro rebels are holding 87 people in Kasanyangan, 20 at the Sta. Catalina mosque, 20 at the Talon-talon mosque, 10 in Camacop Sta. Barbara, and an undetermined number of hostages at the SDK building in Sta. Catalina and in Fernandez store in Lustre.
Hostage takers issued 3 demands for the release of the hostages which included a place for them to sleep with the hostages that they will be allowed to march downtown and raise their MNLF flags at city hall.
Political analysts said the MNLF action was designed to sabotage peace talks aimed at ending a 42-year-old rebellion that has claimed 150,000 lives.
By Hader Glang
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