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Zamboanga clashes erupt despite truce bid

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Two soldiers lay wounded after a mortar landed near them as the government troopers continue their assault at Muslim rebels who have taken scores of hostages and used them as human shields 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

MANILA, Philippines — There is no ceasefire being implemented in Zamboanga City as heavy fighting between government troops and Moro rebels entered its sixth day, authorities said Saturday.

Vice President Jejomar Binay said late Friday  that Gazmin  and Moro National Liberation Front founding Chairman Nur Misuari agreed to observe “a peaceful settlement” to the ongoing crisis in Zamboanga City.

“Well what happened last night was when I talked to the Vice President, he can reach out to Misuari agree to a ceasefire. I said only if they can implement the ceasefire, we will stop firing only when they stop firing,” said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in a television interview past 8 a.m. Saturday.

“They are firing as we speak. It (ceasefire) has never been implemented in the first place,” he said.

Gazmin also said he had not spoken to Misuari.

The defense secretary emphasized their need to “peaceful resolution,” as the heavy fighting has so far killed at least 52 people and wounded 56. Nearly 30,000 people have also fled from their homes as of Friday afternoon.

“We are all peaceful people. We want a peaceful resolution to this so we don’t lose unnecessary lives. We take all steps to prevent bloody confrontation. But the agreement is if they stop firing, we will stop firing,” he said.

Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala,  Armed Forces spokesperson on Saturday said there was no directive for a ceasefire to the military and that troops continue with the “calibrated offensive” ordered by President and Commander in Chief Benigno Aquino III, against the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction loyal to Misuari.

“We haven’t received any orders yet (about a ceasefire). Because of the mortar attacks and the burning of the houses by the MNLF, the AFP did a calibrated offensive operations against the MNLF to stop them from endangering the lives of the civilians,” Zagala told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.

Zagala said the “calibrated operations” had the approval of President Aquino who spent the night in Zamboanga City.

Zagala reiterated what Mr. Aquino had said on Friday that the primordial concern of the government amid the security crisis was the safety of the civilians.

Binay claimed he spoke with both Misuari and Gazmin and a ceasefire would be implemented “as soon as possible.” Binay and Misuari were classmates at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

“Both sides agreed to stop the fighting while pursuing a peaceful settlement. They agreed to implement a ceasefire as soon as possible tonight,” Binay told the Inquirer.

Binay flew to Zamboanga City on Saturday to smooth out the “peace settlement deal.” Associated Press

Related stories:

No ceasefire in Zamboanga says defense chief

Aquino, Binay to meet in Zamboanga

Gov’t, MNLF agree on ceasefire starting Saturday midnight, says Binay

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Tags: Jejomar Binay , MNLF , Moro rebels , Noynoy Aquino , Nur Misuari , Voltaire Gazmin , Zamboanga

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