Aquino in charge of handling Zamboanga crisis, says mayor

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President Aquino rallies government soldiers and later holds a press conference during his lightning visit to Zamboanga City on Friday morning. EDWIN BACASMAS

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—The National Crisis Management Committee has taken over the management of the crisis in Zamboanga, with President Benigno Aquino, who arrived here on Friday, on top of it all, Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said Saturday as fighting between government forces and guerrillas of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) continued for a sixth day.

The mayor said that with Aquino in Zamboanga, the Commander in Chief would personally handle the over-all situation.

The city government would focus on addressing the humanitarian aspect of the crisis while the national government would tackle the tactical and other security concerns, Climaco-Salazar said.

The mayor said she wanted the crisis resolved within Saturday. She did not elaborate.

MNLF fighters, most of them armed, arrived here from Basilan and Sulu on Monday, saying they were to march to Plaza Pershing, which is in front of City Hall, and hold a rally there.

Their presence in at least three coastal districts of the city caused panic among residents and led to sporadic skirmishes with government troops.

The MNLF guerrillas belong to a faction led by Nur Misuari,  who signed a peace agreement with the government in 1996. Misuari, however, claimed that government has failed to fully implement the agreement, and is now talking  peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a group that broke away from the MNLF following the 1996 peace agreement.

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