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Floods force AFP-PNP task force to extend ordnance clearing ops for 10 days
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines - With continuous flooding hampering their work, teams from the police and military now need 10 more days to clear parts of Zamboanga City of unexploded ordnance and remnants of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who may be holding out in places affected by the 20-day siege last month.

In a telephone interview, Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, spokesman of the Police Regional Office 9 (PRO9), explained the situation. “Our Task Force Suyod has so far cleared 70 percent of the affected areas. We’re not able to finish the job in 14 days because of several reasons such as the lingering floods because we’ve to pull out some of our troops for search-and-rescue operations for flood victims."

The troops, he added, "have to exercise extra caution while doing the house-to-house and room-to-room clearing operations because some members of the MNLF may still be holding out there.”

Barangays Rio Hondo, Sta. Catalina and Sta. Barbara have been cleared, but the task force has to conduct a final clearing to double-check if all unexploded ordnance have been removed. Only then will residents be allowed to return home--assuming their homes were not among those seriously damaged by fire and the gunfights.

The task is even more difficult, he explained, in houses that were burned by the dozens of fires caused by deliberate torching by retreating rebels. “Mas delikado kasi itogn mga bahay na natupok sa sunog kasi we’ve to lift yung mga galva para masiguro na sa ilalim ng mga ito ay walang hindi sumabog o nakatanim na bomba. Sa pangalawang clearing ops natin ay lasama na ang mga tauhan at empleyado ng pamahalaang lungsod,” he said.

Part Barangay Mariki has been cleared and clearing operation has begun in Barangay Kansangyanan. Up next is Barangay Talon-talon.

According to Maj. Franco Alano, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), the military cordon in affected areas will stay at their posts in the meantime.

“Right now we cannot rush the mopping up as we need to ensure that we don't lose any soldier or policeman in this dangerous task," said Alano in a separate interview, speaking mostly in Filipino.

Two more MNLF rebels were killed last Oct. 10 when a clearing team from the Marine Battalion Landing Team 3 (MBLT3) ran into them

On September 9, MNLF rebels led by Ustadz Habier Malik, Misuari’s trusted lieutenant, entered the city, apparently with a plan to seize control of the local government unit but were repelled by government forces.
The 20-day battle that ensued, beginning with the seizing of dozens of civilians used as human shields, killed more than 200 combatants and injured over 200 others.

The fighting displaced almost 120,000 residents. Over 10,000 houses were burned.

Charges of rebellion and violation of Republic Act 9851 (International Humanitarian Law) have been filed against Misuari, Malik and their men; and warrants for their arrest have been issued by a Zamboanga City court.