The government has warned Muslim rebels who have been holding more than 100 people hostage to peacefully end the four-day stand-off “at the soonest possible time”, or face the use of force.
It was the strongest warning yet from the administration of President Benigno Aquino III since Moro National Liberation Front guerrillas took scores of residents hostage in the city of Zamboanga. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said any attempts by other groups to start trouble would be crushed, citing the army’s defeat of an extremist group’s attempt to set a nearby village and wharf on fire.
“It is time for you to co-operate to resolve this situation peacefully at the soonest possible time,” Mr Lacierda said. The security crisis – the most serious to hit Mr Aquino’s administration – began on Monday when about 200 armed Moro rebels, who have been overshadowed by a rival group in government talks about a Muslim autonomy deal, clashed with government troops who stopped them marching through Zamboanga and hoisting their flag.