Hostages used as 'human shields' in Zamboanga City


Philippine army troops walk with an armored personnel carrier as they take positions during a standoff with Muslim gunmen in Zamboanga City, on Sept. 10, 2013.


Ted Aljibe

In Zamboanga City, Philippine troops and some 200 to 400 Muslim rebels clashed for the second consecutive day on Tuesday, with reports of civilian hostages being used as human shields.

At least four people have been killed and 14 wounded, according to officials, as members of the Moro National Liberation Front, or MNLF, entered the city early Monday, apparently intent on flying their separatist flag above city hall.

What the group hopes to gain from the attack is still unclear.

"It appears that what happened is not hostage-taking but more of them being turned into human shields by the MNLF forces who entered their communities," Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said at a press conference.

MNLF are reported to have a number of hostages, though it's unclear exactly how many there are, as residents flee clashes between the rebels and more government troops arrive in the city.

The MNLF are a separatist movement that began in 1971. Their goal is to establish an autonomous region for a Muslim minority. The group singed a peace deal in 1996. However, as recent events prove, not all members have agreed to put down their arms.

MNLF leader Nur Misuari, who has not been heard from recently, had previsouly said his group was being ignored in current peace talks between officials and the 11,000 strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF, another insurgent group.

The government says the fighting will not stop MILF peace talks, and that the MNLF would be included in the process. Talks with MILF will resume on Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.