40 more rebels yield; 6 hostages escape

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ZAMBOANGA CITY: Authorities said more than 40 separatist rebels have surrendered and six hostages were recovered as clearing operations continued on Thursday in at least four areas here.

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Officials said 182 rebels had earlier surrendered or were captured in several villages. Six civilians, who were among those held captive, also managed to escape from rebels, bringing to 188 the total number of hostages recovered from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Security forces also captured a mangrove area called Camp Sumatra off Mariki village following an aerial and ground assault that began before dawn.

Soldiers also recovered four speedboats and a motor launch used by the MNLF in transporting rebel forces from Sulu province to the port city of Zamboanga where it launched simultaneous attacks on September 9.

Several shallow graves and bloodied MNLF uniform, weapons and maps of Zamboanga were also recovered from the mangrove area.

Nearly 300 rebels had been detained since the fighting began that left close to 400 people dead and wounded.

“Operations are still going and more rebels are surrendering as we continue clearing areas in Zamboanga,” Chief Insp. Ariel Huesca, a regional police spokesman, told The Manila Times.

Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar said curfew will continue in Zamboanga from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. and that work in all offices—both public and private located outside the conflict zone—will be up to managers.

She said classes will also continue in schools outside areas where security operations are going.

“Village officials are urged anew to heighten security in their areas of responsibility,” Salazar said, citing fresh reports that rebels were fleeing military operations.

She said the villages of Santa Barbara, Santa Catalina, Rio Hondo and Mariki. “These villages are unsafe for its residents to go back to and clearing operation is still going on,” Salazar said, adding over 9,000 houses and buildings in those areas had been burned due to the fighting.

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