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MNLF MEN ATTCAK VILLAGES IN ZAMBOANGA CITY, S. PHILIPPINES


ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines  — Two persons have been reported killed and several others wounded as more than 100 members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) occupied at least three villages in Zamboanga City, before dawn Monday.
One of the fatalities was a member of the Philippine Navy's special force that clashed with the MNLF rebels who breached into the coastal village of Rio Hondo before dawn.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said elite Navy personnel clashed with a group of armed MNLF rebels on board a large motorboat and eight small vessels off the village of Rio Hondo, a crowded Muslim community in the port city.
Chief Superintendent Juanito Banio, director of the Zamboanga Peninsula regional police office, said that there are already two fatalities reported in the clashes.
Both officials said that the rebels were also able to breach into the villages of Sta. Barbara and Lustre, where sporadic gunfire are being reported.
Reinforcement troops and police have been deployed to help secure Rio Hondo and the two other villages.
Banio said that the MNLF rebels are being led by Haber Malik, a Moro commander closely linked to the MNLF faction of former ARMM governor Nur Misuari.
He said that Malik's group, which has breached into the village of Sta. Barbara, has taken 10 to 15 civilians as hostage and are using them as human shields. 
There are also reports at least 30 people are being held hostage by the rebels.
Unofficial reports said that several civilians have also been wounded in the gunfights.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, meanwhile, declared the city a "no fly zone" due to the ongoing conflict.
It said that all commercial flights going to and from the city will remain suspended until 9 p.m. and its lifting would depend on the situation.
Cebu Pacific Air, earlier, canceled its flights to and from the city due to the conflict.
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport Media Affairs Division announced that Cebu Pacific Air started to call off its flights at 9:30 a.m.
It said that the next Cebu Pacific flight to Zamboanga City, flight 5J-857, which is expected to arrive at 11:15 a.m., is put on hold until the situation normalizes.

Source: Philstar

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