Zamboanga City, Philippines (UPDATE) — The United Nations yesterday said the ongoing fighting in Zamboanga City has resulted in a humanitarian crisis, as more Muslim rebels surrendered in the south of the Philippines, according to reports.
The army has taken custody of at least 40 fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the city. Reports say about 300 rebels have surrendered since the fighting began on September 9.
The military claims about 200 hostages have been rescued, but scores have also been wounded and much property in the area has been damaged.
Human Rights Watch reports “serious abuses” of human rights on both sides.
The UN says the conflict has displaced tens of thousands of people, with many of them living in overcrowded and unsanitary shelters in Zamboanga. Some 70,000 are camped out at a sports stadium in the city.
“We are increasingly alarmed by the situation and the growing needs of people caught up with violence,” said Luiza Carvalho, UN resident and humanitarian co-ordinator in the Philippines.
The UN estimates that 158,000 people have been affected by the fighting, and that at least 132 people have died as a result of the violence.
Carlos Conde, the Philippines researcher for Human Rights Watch, said, “Half the residents displaced by war have lost their homes to the fires that resulted from this conflict.”
He also said there were “law and order problems” and that “We are getting reports of women being molested”.
Despite the situation, there were some signs the city was returning to normal, with the airport, seaports, and classes open again. Image/AFP