Aquino vows to come down hard on renegade gunmen in standoff
ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AFP) - Philippine President Benigno Aquino visited a southern city infiltrated by Muslim rebels, vowing to come down hard on the renegade gunmen if they harmed their civilian hostages or resorted to flagrant destruction.
Mr Aquino flew to the port city of Zamboanga where government troops have been battling about 180 Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters, calling their move a “desperate” act to derail a settlement to end decades of Muslim rebellion.
“We’re not setting a deadline but we have decisive points. If they harmed hostages, resorted to arson and crossed other lines that should not be crossed, our security forces have instructions on what to do,” he told reporters.
At least 22 people have been killed and 52 wounded in five days of fighting, while 19 of the gunmen have surrendered or been captured, military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Ramon Zagala told AFP.