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Philippine president warns rebels to end standoff

By Bullit Marquez

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 06:49 a.m. HST, Sep 13, 2013

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines » Philippine officials negotiated Friday (Thursday in Hawaii) with Muslim rebels who were holding more than 100 people hostage, as President Benigno Aquino III warned that his government won't hesitate to use force to end the five-day standoff.

Aquino visited troops and some of the 24,000 people displaced by the violence in southern Zamboanga city, where about 200 fighters from a Muslim rebel faction stormed into several coastal communities earlier this week and took residents hostage. Twenty-two people, including 15 rebels, have been killed so far in repeated clashes between the guerrillas and the troops who have surrounded them.

Fighting broke out again in Santa Catalina village on Friday, and ABS-CBN TV reported that voices presumably of hostages were heard shouting "cease fire, cease fire!" One government soldier was reportedly wounded.

A mortar fired by the rebels landed on a street in front of the government hospital in Santa Catalina. An AP photographer near the scene saw at least six people wounded, including four Red Cross personnel and two soldiers. The wounded were rushed away on stretchers and an ambulance.

Four fires raged in different parts of Zamboanga, a major southern port city. Officials said the rebels could be setting them as diversions.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said that lines of communication with the rebels remain open but they're still refusing to surrender.

"We're negotiating," Zagala said, refusing to elaborate.

The crisis began Monday when Moro National Liberation Front rebels, who have been overshadowed by a rival group in talks with the government for a new minority Muslim autonomy deal, clashed with troops who had foiled their plan to march through Zamboanga city and hoist their flag at city hall.

The rebel leader, Nur Misuari, signed a peace deal in 1996, but the guerrillas did not lay down their arms and later accused the government of reneging on a promise to develop long-neglected Muslim regions in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation. The government says Misuari kept on stalling and making new demands.

"We will investigate all the actuations of Misuari," Aquino told reporters, adding that his justice secretary was evaluating evidence against Misuari.

Misuari has not been seen in public since the standoff began.

"There are lines they should not cross," Aquino said of the rebels. If those lines are crossed, the government will be obligated to use "the force of the state," he said.

Associated Press writers Teresa Cerojano, Jim Gomez and Hrvoje Hranjski in Manila contributed to this report.

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allie wrote:
Islam=religion of violence, horror and blood.
on September 13,2013 | 07:51AM
Kiahuna wrote:
Fundamentalist Islam=religion of violence, horror and blood.
on September 13,2013 | 08:23AM
fiveo wrote:
The Moro's have been a problem going back even before the US took over the Philippines from the Spanish at the end of the Spanish American War which coincidently was a war started by the US on the false claim that the Spanish had caused the sinking of the US warship, the Maine, in Havana harbor. The US claimed the ship had been sunk by a Spanish mine but the Maine was actually sunk due to fire which set off the ship's munitions. Anyway after the US took over the Philippines, and made war on the Filipino's who resisted the US takeover, the Moro's also began a guerrilla war against US forces when the US began intruding into their territory. The fighting lasted for many years and both sides were guilty of horrible atrocities and the fighting continued until 1913 when a peace accord was signed. Anyway, you can expect that the Moro's will continue to fight against the Filipino government no matter how many accords or treaties or truces are agreed to. They will continue to press for full autonomy and want their own independent caliph and sharia based state. Whether they will be satisfied with that is unclear or have greater ambitions, only time will tell.
on September 13,2013 | 09:21AM
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