• War refugees finally return home in Zamboanga

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    Residents who fled their village following last month’s rebel attacks in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines have finally returned home on Saturday, but many of the houses were either burned or looted, and now villagers were trying to rebuild not only their homes, but their lives.

    Villagers in Santa Barbara said their houses had been ransacked and nobody can say who were responsible in the looting, but security officials have previously blamed Moro National Liberation Front rebels, who occupied several villages here as behind it.

    But several army soldiers were also accused of looting in the village and the military said it is investigating the allegations.

    “My computer was gone,” one boy cried as he frantically searched for his personal computer.

    One Muslim woman said she lost everything from the fire that gutted their neighborhood during the three-week street battles in Santa Barbara. “We lost everything and we don’t know what to do now,” she said.

    A huge area in Santa Barbara looked like it was ravaged by a fiery twister—mangled steel bars, broken street poles and blackened house frames burned down by conflagration—are the only visible landscape in the village.

    Authorities said rebels burned down the village as they flee from military attacks, but residents claimed the conflagration was cause by the government assault in the village.

    The Department of Social Welfare and Development has allocated P10 million to fund the building of bunkhouses inside the Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex where thousands of war refugees are now staying. The bunkhouses are only temporary shelters that will house several hundred people.

    The fighting, which killed and wounded more than 400 people, forced over 100,000 people to flee their homes. AL JACINTO

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