30,000 villagers evacuated; scores hurt in mortar attack


Villagers queue up to board a truck after authorities ordered a forced evacuation as a standoff between the government troopers and Muslim rebels, who have taken scores of hostages and used them as human shields, continues for the fifth straight day Friday Sept. 13, 2013 at Zamboanga city in southern Philippines. The troops have surrounded the Moro National Liberation Front guerrillas with their hostages in four coastal villages since the crisis erupted Monday. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

MANILA, Philippines – The total number of evacuees in the ongoing clash between government troops and Moro National Liberation Front ballooned to nearly 30,000 on Friday.

The Office of Civil Defense in Zamboanga Peninsula said that there were a total of 29,557 persons sheltered at 17 evacuation centers as of Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, several persons were wounded in a mortar explosion in Santa Catalina village late Friday afternoon.

A TV report from the ABS-CBN News Channel showed delayed firefight footage, as well as several Red Cross workers wounded and being given first aid.

On Thursday night, residents in the villages of Hondo, Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, Talon-Talon and Mampang were forcibly evacuated after the Zamboanga City government declared an emergency.

The local government said the evacuation was resorted to “when there is either a disaste or emergency and danger or loss of lives becomes imminent.”

The ongoing firefight, with intermittent skirmishes since Monday, has left 22 killed, as per military records. Two from the fatalities were soldiers, three were from police, two were civilians. Fifteen Moro rebels were killed.

Meanwhile, 26 soldiers were reported wounded.

On Friday, President Benigno Aquino III visited Zamboanga City, which military spokesman Brigadier General Domingo Tutaan described as a “boost to the morale of soldiers.”

Secretary of Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Ricky Carandang said Aquino went there “to personally assess the situation on the ground.”

Originally posted at 4:40 p.m.

Related Stories:

Forced evacuation ordered in 5 Zamboanga villages

Aquino: Military operation in Zamboanga to continue

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