Numbers do figure in gov’t-MNLF standoff in Zamboanga
MANILA, Philippines—The government and the Nur Misuari-led faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) are not just engaged in ground fighting in Zamboanga City but in disputing casualty figures as well.
MNLF spokesperson Atty. Emmanuel Fontanilla said Wednesday that it was reported to them that six Scout Rangers, four army men, and a certain “Major Alvarez” were captured by the Moro gunmen.
Fontanilla, in an interview with Radyo Inquirer 990 AM, also claimed that 235 government soldiers had been killed as the standoff reached its 10th day on Wednesday.
But Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, in a separate interview with dzIQ, refuted Fontanilla’s claim, saying that only 14 soldiers were killed. He said over 100 troops have also been wounded.
On the captured soldiers, Zagala said that “so far, there were no missing in action reported to us. I don’t know where he (Fontanilla) got this information.”
The MNLF spokesperson said their camp had also received information that a ship from the government troops had sunk while one of their helicopters had been hit.
But Zagala retorted: “We have not lost a helicopter nor any ship nor are we hiding any of our soldiers killed.”
Fontanilla also claimed that there were still thousands of MNLF gunmen embedded in the standoff, but again, Zagala said that based on their estimate, only 30 to 40 rebels remained holed up in Zamboanga City.
“There’s a total of already 86 killed and now we have apprehended quite a number of them so significantly the MNLF were reduced dramatically,” Zagala said.
Zagala added that as of Wednesday morning, the military and police in Zamboanga were shifting to clearing to “remove the remnants of these armed elements.”
“We are very transparent. I guess Atty. Fontanilla should ask himself. Is he credible? Does he feel what these members of the MNLF Misuari-faction are feeling right now?”
Fontanilla admitted that the Misuari-led faction was seeking for a “mediator” to intervene in the situation.
“Parang ang situation tuloy, nagsusuntukan, nagpapatayan, walang referee. Eh ‘di walang katapusan. (Both parties are brawling, killing each other but no referee to pacify them, thus no end in fighting),” Fontanilla added.
“This is Jihad. We offered our lives to Allah for a cause. In fact, we already consider them (MNLF gunmen) living dead. They are ready to go to heaven anytime,” he said.
Zagala, on the other hand, urged the public to differentiate between propaganda and facts.
“Our real goal, as ordered by the President, is to save lives. We’re not here to hunt down the MNLF faction but were here to rescue hostages,” he added.
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