Philippine News: Zamboanga City, Muslim Rebels Hostage Crisis (4th UPDATE) – Military and police special forces have launched an offensive against Muslim rebel-held areas of Zamboanga city, killing or capturing nearly 100 guerrillas who have been holding scores of people hostage for a week, according to government officials Sunday.
Military spokesman Col Ramon Zagala said they are pressing on with the assault and gaining ground, and that troops are calibrating their firepower to avoid harming civilians, according to reports.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said at least 51 rebels had been killed and 42 others captured, added that they would face criminal charges.
The rebels had taken more than 100 hostages as human shields after troops stopped their attempt to march on city hall and hoist their flag.
The military and police then surrounded the guerrillas and tried to convince them to release the hostages and surrender.
Zagala said government forces decided to attack Friday after the rebels started setting clusters of houses on fire and fired mortars that wounded several Red Cross workers.
Roxas said it’s difficult to tell when troops will be able to end the standoff, which has displaced over 67,000 people and paralyzed the port city of a million people. Image/AFP