Skip to main content

Muslim rebels hold 20 hostages in Zamboanga City, Philippines

From Paul Armstrong and Tim Schwarz, CNN
updated 3:20 AM EDT, Mon September 9, 2013
A soldier is helped by comrades after being injured during skirmishes with rebels in Zamboanga City on September 9.
A soldier is helped by comrades after being injured during skirmishes with rebels in Zamboanga City on September 9.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Officials: Six dead during clashes with Muslim rebels in southern Philippines
  • At least 20 people taken hostage in mainly Christian town of Zamboanga City
  • Moro National Liberation Front want autonomous region for Muslims
  • The MNLF signed 1996 peace deal but some members continue violent struggle

(CNN) -- As many as 400 armed Muslim rebels are holding at least 20 people hostage in a southern Philippine city after coming ashore by boat, authorities said Monday.

Philippine police and armed forces have blockaded the areas of Zamboanga City, a mainly Christian city on the southern coast of Mindanao, where the rebels are holed up, Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar told CNN. She said the rebels had planned to march on the city hall.

City officials hope to talk to the rebels, who are believed to be from the Moro National Liberation Front, to try to negotiate the hostages' release, she said.

The MNLF, a separatist movement founded in 1971 by Nur Misuari with the aim of establishing an autonomous region for Muslims in this mainly Catholic country, signed a peace deal with the central government in Manila in 1996 -- though some of its members have broken away to continue with a violent campaign.

According to a statement issued by Climaco-Salazar, the current crisis began at around 4.30 a.m. local time when government forces clashed with armed rebels heading for the city by boat. Six people, including a policeman, a navy serviceman and four civilians, were killed during the course of these clashes.

The statement added that six districts in this coastal city of 800,000 people have been affected by the "infiltration of alleged MNLF members," with 20 hostages taken in the district of Santa Catalina.

In a televised press conference Monday, a police spokesman said a further 200 people were currently stranded in the city because of the blockade by security forces. They are not being classified as hostages.

No demands have been made by the rebels, he added.

Under the terms of the 1996 agreement, Misuari was named as governor of an expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). He served until 2001.

Last month Misuari issued a "declaration of independence" for the Moro nation -- referring to Mindanao's indigenous Muslim population -- after complaining that the MNLF had been left out of a recent wealth-sharing agreement with an another insurgent group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has fought for decades to set up an independent Islamic state on the resource-rich island of Mindanao.

READ: rebels agree to wealth-sharing deal

CNN's Kathy Quiano contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:40 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
updated 8:57 PM EDT, Sat July 19, 2014
Children and youth are often the victims of the violence in Gaza. CNN's Ben Wedeman reports.
updated 11:07 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
updated 2:21 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Inspirational, creepy or just weird? CNN meets the 51-year-old man who dresses like a schoolgirl.
shakespeare moon illustration
It's been 45 years since the first moon landing. And still the giant rock continues to intrigue.
updated 8:49 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Nelson Mandela
21 ICONS has captured intimate portraits of some of South Africa's most celebrated. Founder Adrian Steirn reveals the story behind the images.
updated 7:00 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A British nanotech company has created what it says is the world's darkest material.
updated 7:12 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Yoga, meditation and watching a snake eat a frog alive: these are some of the experiences to be had at this Himalayan yoga retreat.
updated 7:39 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Just a few weeks ago, a boy tied to a bus stop in Mumbai barely received a glance from passersby. Now, he has a home, thanks to a local NGO.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT