ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Security forces have cleared two of the four barangays that were placed under siege by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels after more than two weeks of clearing operations, Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said here yesterday.
Police Director Carmelo Valmoria, Task Force Suyod chief, reported that barangays Rio Hondo and Zone IV were cleared of unexploded ordnances, booby traps, firearms and MNLF stragglers who escaped the government offensive.
The two villages along with the barangays of Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina were heavily damaged after more than 20 days of clashes between government troops and MNLF fighters loyal to Nur Misuari.
At least 2,000 public and private buildings were burned or damaged, including the local offices of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Hall of Justice, the Bangko Sentral and Land Bank of the Philippines.
More than 10,000 houses made of concrete and light materials were also razed to the ground.
Task Force Suyud members have so far recovered 396 unexploded ordnance, 19 firearms and 53 bodies and skeletal remains.
More than 400 followers of Misuari stormed Zamboanga City last Sept. 9 to seize the city hall and raise the flag of an “independent Bangsamoro Republik.”
Some 190 MNLF rebels were killed after more than three weeks of fighting, while 292 other suspects were either captured or have surrendered.
Twenty-three soldiers and policemen were killed and 180 were wounded, while 12 civilians were killed.
At least 120,000 villagers fled their homes as the rebels burned houses to derail the military operations to get the MNLF fighters.
Mayor Salazar, chair of the local crisis management committee (CMC), said the clearing forces are now focused in barangays Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina.
The police have cleared 50 percent of Sta. Barbara and about 80 percent of Sta. Catalina.