Philippines (EDGE/MNN) — Fighting has spread in Zamboanga City as Philippine forces fought Muslim rebels (Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to take the strategic city back.
The eruption took people by surprise in an area where tensions are always roiling. 17 years after the group signed a peace treaty that won self-rule for the Muslim minority, guerrillas decided to renew their call for independence.
Evidently, the leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front were angered when a separate peace deal was created with rival signed a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front last year. MNLF leaders said the new truce would encroach on the original accord.
It’s a discouraging scenario since the government has been struggling for decades to contain attacks by Muslim-led groups. The violence also raised fears of a widening of the insurgent threat in the area. That’s been born out by reports Thursday of Muslim rebels attacking a second town, Lamitan in Basilan province.
So far, fighting has displaced roughly 13,000 residents from at least six villages in the area. Some 9,000 evacuees are in a nearby stadium. The rest are taking shelter in various evacuation sites such as schools and churches.
Six communities in the city remain under the control of the MNLF as naval strikes and soldiers on the ground have thus far been unsuccessful in pressuring them to surrender.
The Edge Radio Network ministers in the area through their local affiliate in Sibugay (Sih-BOO-guy). Edge Network General Manager and missionary Mike Medlin says the station is doing everything they can to stay on the air providing critical updates to listeners….”We heard from our team earlier today and you could really begin to sense their anxiety. They had received a report from local officials that their community could be a fall-back location for the MNLF. Right now they are still on the air, but they could be forced to evacuate if the situation continues to worsen.”
Please continue to pray for peace. There are now 12 confirmed dead and 21 injuries.