Up to 15 MNLF gunmen yield as troops near ‘ground zero’



ZAMBOANGA CITY — At least 15 Moro National Liberation Front gunmen under Commander Dasta surrendered around 6 a.m. Thursday, the military said.

Lieutenant General Rey Ardo, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said the gunmen yielded as government troops closed in on their positions in the so-called “ground zero,” where clearing operations were ongoing.

Ardo credited the leaflet campaign by the military for the surrender of the gunmen, who are still being “extricated” from the area.

“Di natin ma-full blast (ang operations) para masiguradong ligtas ang hostages [We can’t go full blast with the operations to ensure the safety of hostages],” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on radio earlier Thursday.

He said the rebels could have surrendered because they were tired, hungry and running low on ammunition.

On Wednesday, the military said there could be less than a hundred hostages taken by MNLF forces and used as human shields.

Fresh fighting broke out in Sta. Catalina and Sta. Barbara early Thursday, which left one soldier killed.

At least a hundred have been killed and injured from the gunbattle that started last week. Civilians bore the brunt of the fighting, with at least 110,000 persons displaced as of Wednesday afternoon, seven killed and 67 injured.

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