Philippine rebels take hundreds hostage

At least 200 people have been taken hostage in southern Philippines after rebels rampaged through coastal communities, leaving at least six people dead, local news reports say. The fighting happened after troops backed by tanks blocked Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels from marching into Zamboanga city to raise their flag at a city hall, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala said on Monday. Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith reports.

This happened earlier. And the result has been a stand-off  in several areas in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines.

The Moro National Liberation Front used to be the biggest secessionist group in the country, supported with arms and training by Libya and Malaysia. And it posed a serious threat to internal security of the country. In 1996, the MNLF signed a peace agreement  with the Ramos administration, supposedly ending its armed struggle.

The MNLF though was not without flaws as internal struggles resulted to several factions, one of which is the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Recently, the Philippine government finalized a peace agreement with the MILF, a move which angered some leaders of the MNLF.

The MNLF attack on Zamboanga City launched today, comes a day before the resumption of another round of peace talks  between the government and MILF – an indication of the older movement’s desire for the Aquino administration’s attention.

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