Tight security in Zamboanga

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - News - (Mindanao Examiner)

SECURITY FORCES are in heightened alert in Zamboanga City following the recovery of improvised explosives from a motorized boat on Sacol Island.

The recovery of the bombs raised suspicion that rebels may be planning to launch attacks in the southern port city.

Chief Insp. Rogelio Alabata, a spokesman for the regional police force, said the improvised explosives were made from ammonium nitrate and fuel oil mixed gasoline and packed with iron nails.

He said the boat was abandoned on the shoreline of Sacol Island – just several nautical miles from Zamboanga - and was spotted by a security patrol over the weekend. It was unknown whether the explosives belonged to the Abu Sayyaf or Moro National Liberation Front rebels.

The recovery of the explosives came the same week that Mayor Beng Climaco banned any rally of the Moro National Liberation Front in Zamboanga City and ordered authorities to stay alert following a recent plenum by the former rebel group in nearby Sulu province.

Climaco met with senior police and military officials and discussed with them on how to secure Zamboanga which had been attacked twice by MNLF rebels despite a peace accord with manila in September 1996.

She security forces have been alerted on possibility that some individuals may try to hold so-called peace rallies or gathering in Zamboanga. She said such rallies will not be allowed in the as this might disturb Zamboanga anew.

“I am giving you a categorical no, you must not disturb Zamboanga anymore. If you want to come up with your rally, make it in your area, Zamboanga will not welcome a rally by MNLF, not at this time because you still have to be accountable with the killings and devastations we are suffering from,” Climaco said.

Nur Misuari, chieftain of the MNLF, is wanted by authorities after his forces attacked Zamboanga City – first in 2001 and the second was in 2013 – that left over 300 people dead and wounded in three weeks of street battles.

“The destruction wrought by the 2013 siege continues to linger, as internally displaced persons - both Muslims, Christians and Lumads, most of whom are those who eluded the conflicts in Sulu and Basilan - have suffered the brunt of the MNLF attack in Zamboanga three years ago,” Climaco said.

MNLF members had been intercepted in Zamboanga on their way to attend the January 8 plenum in Sulu. But many MNLF members are residing in Zamboanga and during the siege many of them, including women, had joined the fighting that displaced over 120,000 people.

In 2001, Misuari’s loyal forces and former MNLF rebels who joined the Philippine Army following the September 1996 peace deal with Manila, attacked a key military base in Jolo town and civilian targets in Zamboanga City in an effort to stop the government from calling an election in the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao where Misuari was then the governor.

Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he had been arrested and deported to the Philippines and was eventually pardoned and released by President Gloria Arroyo in exchange for MNLF support to her election bid as well as her allies in the Senate and Congress in 2004.

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