What Went Before: The MNLF siege of Zamboanga City
On Sept. 9 last year, about 200 rebels from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction led by Nur Misuari stormed into Zamboanga City in boats and took over several coastal villages, triggering a standoff between government forces and the rebels who held civilians hostage.
The assault, apparently aimed at thwarting a government peace plan with another separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), paralyzed the city of over a million residents, razed 10,000 homes and reduced 30 to 40 hectares of once-thriving communities to rubble.
On Sept. 13, President Aquino flew to Zamboanga City to take direct command of military operations, with about 4,500 soldiers and policemen deployed to the city to crush Misuari’s deadly attempt to derail a final peace agreement between the government and the MILF.
For 10 days, the President was reportedly in Zamboanga City to oversee military operations against the rebels.
On Sept. 28, after three weeks of fighting, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin declared that the government had accomplished its mission to free all the MNLF hostages but that the government had yet to complete house-to-house clearing operations 20 days after the rebel assault.
The fighting left about 218 dead and hundreds more wounded. Over 100,000 residents fled to evacuation centers.
On Oct. 9, the Zamboanga City Regional Trial Court ordered the arrest of Misuari and three of his key lieutenants after the Department of Justice brought rebellion and other criminal charges against them and 60 of their followers who were captured or surrendered during the fighting.–Inquirer Research
Source: Inquirer Archives