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MANILA, Philippines: At least six people have been reported killed while more than 200 others were being held hostage as members of the Moro National Liberation Front attacked several coastal villages in Zamboanga City on Monday, according to the Philippine Inquirer.
“Since the start of the crisis at around 4:30 a.m. today (Monday), the Zamboanga City Police Office reported that six people had been killed —one policemen, one navy man and four civilians–while 24 others had been wounded in the course of the encounter between government troops and the rebels. More casualties were reported on the enemy side,” Zamboanga City Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said in a statement.
Salazar said 20 of the hostages are in Barangay (village) Sta. Catalina, while over 200 were being held captive in Barangay Kasanyangan.
“We are in close coordination with our police and military authorities and everything is being done to solve the crisis the soonest possible time with minimal damage to lives and properties,” she said.
Aside from Sta. Catalina and Kasanyangan, the other villages affected by the MNLF attack were Sta. Barbara, Talon-Talon, and Mampang.
Airports and seaports in Zamboanga City were closed for precautionary measures. Work and classes in all levels were also cancelled.
There were also about 1,500 persons sheltered in different evacuation centers as of noon Monday, the reports said.
“The City Health Office in cooperation with private hospitals are setting up an emergency hospital at the grandstand where all victims will be directed. Ambulances from public and private hospitals will be stationed in the area,” Salazar said.
Salazar also appealed to the media not to sensationalize or leak sensitive information as to not jeopardize the operations of authorities.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin have been directed by President Aquino to fly to Zamboanga to help address the situation.
“I am in touch with President Aquino and the Executive Department and they are monitoring and helping us resolve this concern,” Salazar also said.