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Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala. (photo from Borneo Insider)

“The Worst is Over” in Zamboanga

Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala. (photo from Borneo Insider)
Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala. (photo from Borneo Insider)

Malacañang Palace said that the crisis in Zamboanga is not completely over yet, following fresh fighting in the city between rebel forces and government troops that left six rebels dead yesterday.

Zamboanga City was attacked by a faction of rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) lead by commander Habier Malik allegedly under the order of founding chairman Nur Misuari, September 9.

Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala, public affairs chief of the military forces stationed in the city, said the latest fighting occurred yesterday morning.

Zagala said that the armed forces have already completed their mission in the city, and have handed over clearing operations to the national police Special Action Force (SAF).

“The first mission is to rescue the hostages, the second mission is to remove the threat. And we have already removed the threat, as noted by so many captured and so many enemy killed,” he said.

He emphasized that “definitely the worst is over.”

He also said that rebel elements in the city are no longer organized, but there are still hostile forces left.

“We are looking for them; if found and they resist then we will have to use force,” he said.

Presidential Communications Development Secretary Ramon Carandang said government troops have reclaimed rebel-occupied areas.

“There are clearing operations since there may be some stragglers in Zamboanga,” Sec. Carandang said, “So it’s not completely over yet.”

“I think what we have done here, based on who we have captured and the number of Misuari fighters killed, has degraded the ability of Misuari to create these kinds of situations. This is a huge blow to the Misuari forces,” he said.

Meanwhile, officials from the national police have dispelled rumors that Malik was found dead.

Police have found a body that bore Malik’s ID, and confirmed through investigations that it was not his.

“We learned from people who have custody of the ID that the body is not Malik’s,” police Chief Director General Alan Purisima said in an interview.

Gen. Purusima said they will be collecting DNA samples from rebel fatalities to determine whether Malik was killed in the ongoing conflict.

(with reports from The Manila Bulletin and The Philippine Inquirer)