MANILA, Philippines – Around 150 people in Zamboanga City were rescued from the hands of the Moro National Liberation Front, said Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II Tuesday.
“During our morning briefing today, [we learned that] more or less 150 hostages have been rescued,” Roxas said, adding that 30 were rescued Monday night and around 70 that morning.
In a separate statement, Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc, a military spokesman designated for the crisis, said there were 64 hostages rescued by special operations forces in Sta Barbara village before 4 a.m.
He said that there were 39 male hostages, 21 female and four children.
The Zamboanga City government, meanwhile, said there were 69 that were either released or escaped early Tuesday.
The MNLF rebels took hostages during their attack and allegedly used them as human shields.
The freed hostages were turned over to police, Cabunoc said.
Dozens were also either released or rescued on Monday night in two batches.
Roxas said government forces have effectively constricted the movement of the MNLF, surrounding them not only on land but also at sea.
Roxas said they were open to anyone willing to negotiate with the MNLF but said the Moro gunmen would not be let off the hook since in addition to those taken hostage, thousands of houses were razed and even firemen were targeted by their snipers.
Roxas assured the public they were working hard to resolve the conflict that first started on September 9, with Mayor Maria Isabelle “Beng” Climaco-Salazar heading the crisis management committee and President Benigno Aquino III, as commander in chief, overseeing security.
He said at least 180,000 meals were being served for the almost 60,000 evacuees.