Interior and Local Government Sec. Mar Roxas said members of the Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under Ustadz Habier Malik in Zamboanga City are down to about 50 to 70 men.
Roxas said Malik's men are “constricted” to Brgys. Sta. Catalina and Sta. Barbara.
“Now there are more or less 50 to 70 rogue MNLF members under commander Malik are still in Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalna in an area 2 or 3 hectares. But this area is filled with houses,” Roxas said.
Meanwhile, the identities of the 23 members of the MNLF who surrendered to Zamboanga City police chief Sr. Supt. Jose Malayo are now being verified.
Roxas said photos of the MNLF fighters will be shown to released hostages to confirm if those who surrendered took part in attacks against government troops.
Roxas said the group was invited to join a peace march in Zamboanga and did not know they were going to engage the military. When they heard gunfire, they withdrew to Brgy. Mampang in a bid to return to Basilan.
ABS-CBN’s Doris Bigornia reported that clearing operations are continuing in Sta. Catalina. Access to the area has been restricted by soldiers.
In other news, aviation authorities are studying the possibility of reopening the Zamboanga City International Airport on Sept. 19.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) will assess the peace and order situation after a week of clashes between government forces and the MNLF. The CAAP said they want to check if 2 Zamboanga-Manila flights can resume.
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