The Zamboanga City crisis or Battle of Zamboanga was an armed conflict in Zamboanga City,Philippines between the forces of the Republic of the Philippines and a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front, generally known by other factions as the Rogue MNLF Elements (RME) under the Sulu State Revolutionary Command (SSRC) led by Ustadz Habier Malik and Khaid Ajibon, whose group continues to recognize Nur Misuari as MNLF Chairman. The crisis erupted on September 9, 2013 when this MNLF faction attempted to raise the flag of the self-proclaimed Bangsamoro Republik at Zamboanga City Hall, which had earlier declared its independence on August 12, 2013 in Talipao, Sulu. This armed incursion, which has been variously described a "crisis", a "standoff", a "siege", and a "humanitarian crisis", was met by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and thePhilippine National Police (PNP), which sought to free the hostages and expel the MNLF from the city. The standoff degenerated into urban warfare, and had brought parts of the city under a standstill for days.
The clashes caused the displacement of more than 100,000 people, the occupation of several barangays (villages) by the MNLF, the deaths of several civilians, the closure of the Zamboanga International Airport(which has since been reopened), and the slowdown of economic activity in the city.
On September 28, the government declared the end of military operations in Zamboanga City. Commander Malik, reportedly the leader of the MNLF forces, remains at large, and several skirmishes are still being regularly reported.
September 8 Edit
The initial confrontation occurred around 11:00 p.m. on the evening of Sunday, September 8, 2013. A navy patrol boat intercepted a large motorboat and eight other smaller vessels carrying armed men near the coastal barangay of Rio Hondo. This led to an exchange of fire resulting in several casualties including the death of one of the navy personnel and two civilians.
September 9 Edit
On September 9, 2013, at around 4:30 a.m., the MNLF entered the city and killed four people, contrary to the first report of having six people killed. Four barangays were occupied by the MNLF: Rio Hondo, Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, and parts of Talon-Talon. The group held 20 civilians hostages in Barangay Sta. Catalina, and around noontime more than 200 civilians were reported as being held hostage by the MNLF. The civilian hostages were being used as human shields by the MNLF.
The city government of Zamboanga declared a "no classes and no work" following the attacks at Barangay Sta. Catalina. A curfew was later imposed throughout the city that day, virtually shutting down the city. Zamboanga City Mayor Isabelle "Beng" Climaco-Salazar later visited the people who fled to different evacuation centers that morning.
Zamboanga International Airport was shut down as all flights operating to and from the city was cancelled.
September 10 Edit
The Zamboanga City Hall where the MNLF intended to hoist theBangsamoro Republik flag.
On the second day, the Philippine government deployed a larger force in the city. A naval blockade was set, and more troops and units were deployed, including four units of elite troops from the Naval Special Operations Group.At dawn, city police prevented 30 members of the MNLF from joining the main force.
By morning, the MNLF fired rocket-propelled grenades and mortars at military positions. The clash between MNLF and the government forces spread throughout the barangay as residents fled their homes while some people could not leave the area due to fear of being caught in crossfire.
During the afternoon, a fire erupted in Barangay Santa Barbara that razed five houses as firefights between the MNLF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines ensued. Four firetrucks responded, but were delayed, as they needed to have a clearance from the military before entering the area due to the presence of MNLF snipers.
September 11 Edit
Zamboanga City Mayor Climaco finally contacted Nur Misuari through telephone on Thursday. Mayor Climaco asked Misuari to call off the attack but Misuari claimed that he has no hand at the situation and distanced himself from Commander Habier Malik, and his followers action. This contradicts to what MNLF spokesman, Emmanuel Fontanilla, said earlier. The spokesman said that Misuari was leading the MNLF militants in Zamboanga City.
September 12 Edit
The Philippine government issued an ultimatum to the MNLF militants in Zamboanga saying that the government will not hesitate to use force to resolve the situation in Zamboanga City. “While the government is exhausting all avenues for a peaceful resolution of the situation, let it be clear to those defying us that they should not entertain the illusion that the state will hesitate to use its forces to protect our people,” Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.
September 13 Edit
Vice President of the Philippines Jejomar Binay had spoken by telephone to Nur Misuari, and they agreed on a ceasefire. Nur Misauri’s spokesperson Rev. Absalom Cerveza said that the current situation in Zamboanga city is a war of independence and denied that the MNLF came to Zamboanga for a peace caravan. "If you win in the war, you will gain your independence. So it happened. MNLF followed this track to gain its independence," he said. The spokesman also denied earlier reports that Misuari disowned Commander Habier Malik.
September 15 Edit
Plans for a ceasefire fail. MNLF snipers were captured.
September 16 Edit
The Army started to pound MNLF positions in Barangay Sta. Barbara with mortars. A civilian vehicle was accidentally hit by a mortar round as the battle raged, although no one was hurt. Air strikes with MG-520 attack helicopters and SF-260 counter-insurgency planes started, firing their guns against alleged MNLF positions in the city. A total of three rocket rounds from a MG-520 of the Air Force struck unspecified enemy stronghold between 1 to 1:30 pm. 33 hostages were released.
September 17 Edit
Zamboanga City police chief Jose Chiquito Malayo who tried to negotiate with the rebels to release more hostages was reportedly abducted and held hostage by the rebels. Later in the day, he was freed, bringing 23 rebels who had surrendered.
September 18 Edit
The Army said that government forces killed 120 rebels and now controlled 80 percent of the areas that had been occupied by the rebels. According to the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development, due to the fighting, the number of displaced residents has risen to 110,000, As of 18 September 2013, in 35 evacuation centers, such as the Baliwasan Grandstand. The military took control of KGK Building, which was the headquarters of the MNLF-controlled areas.However, the rebel commander had fled before the Army could capture him.
September 19 Edit
President Benigno Aquino III meeting with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police on September 21, 2013.
The Zamboanga City international airport reopened. The International Committee of the Red Cross has responded to the humanitarian needs of the residents. Felipe Rojas, Philippine National Police’s directorate for operations Chief Superintendent, said that the gunmen are being “forced to surrender due to hunger.” Governor Mujiv Hataman of theAutonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said that most of the gunmen, who surrendered, were unknown and were mostly from “Akbar or Albarka towns in Basilan”.
September 24 Edit
An MNLF commander and 7 fighters surrendered.
September 25 Edit
The United Nations declared the situation a humanitarian crisis. In 17 days, the fighting had already displaced 109,000 people in Zamboanga City and 19,000 in Basilan, and destroyed more than 10,000 homes.
September 26 Edit
Government forces gained control over Sumatra Island, which is part of Barangay Talon-Talon and was a strategic landing point used by MNLF fighters. They have also seized 5 water vessels, one motor launch and four jungkungs (motorboat). The motor launch has a capacity of more than 100 people, while each jungkung can carry 30 people. Ammunition, food, MNLF uniforms and vital documents were also recovered from the island.
September 27 Edit
The Reverend Absalom Cerveza, MNLF spokesman, said that Habier Malik texted him that he will not surrender. Cerveza aked that Malik and his closest followers are the "hardcore" fighters of the MNLF and are willing to put their life on the line. Cerveza described that the situation in Zamboanga "might be the darkest episode in the history of the MNLF,” Malik also asked prayers for the MNLF. According to the spokesman, Nur Misuari asked Malik to stand down, however Cerveza said he was not able to communicate with Malik or any other commanders in the battlefield. It is also reported that some arrested MNLF fighters admitted that they were promised ₱10,000 to join a rally in Zamboanga city. 20 MNLF fighters, including Malik remained in Zamboanga city, according to the military.
September 28 Edit
Malacañang said that the nearly three-week crisis in Zamboanga City was now over. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte confirmed the statement of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin that the conflict in Zamboanga was over. "Certainly, the Defense Secretary made that announcement and we've always maintained in the days that we were dealing with the situation that it will be the officials on the ground who will be making the announcement based on their assessment. Our task from Day 1 is to ensure the safety of the hostages that were taken...as well as to get civilians out of harm's way and that has already been accomplished." Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin announced: "So far, the security crisis is over and now we go to post-conflict phase."