MANILA -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday brushed off claims that about a hundred members of the Nur Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) safely made their way out of Zamboanga City.
AFP Spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said their mission in Zamboanga Ccity was a success, owing to the superior number of government troops.
Zagala said the Misuari group no longer poses a threat to the city and that any attempt by the rebels to leave during the 20-day standoff was always met by force.
"We defeated them. They are no longer a force that can wreak havoc in Zamboanga City. [MNLF Spokesperson] Attorney Emmanuel Fontanilla is not on the ground. I was there. I saw the deployment of thousands of troops. Maybe one or 2 can escape but hundreds cannot go through the monitoring we have," Zagala said in an ANC interview.
As clearing operations continue in Zamboanga City especially at vital installations in six barangays of conflict, Zagala said their task now is to remove an estimated 20 MNLF stragglers who may be trying to escape.
"Right now what's important is we remove these stragglers. Beside the stragglers, there is a lot of buried MNLF fighters there," he said.
Zagala said the government is trying to determine who sent the MNLF troops headed by five commanders to Zamboanga City.
He added they continue to trace the whereabouts of Habier Malik, one of the trusted commanders of Misuari, and verify reports of his possible death as well as those of two other rebel commanders Haider and Dasta. - ANC