14 Sep 2013

Philippines' siege rebels 'agree to talks'

10:42 pm on 14 September 2013

The leader of Muslim rebels locked in a deadly stand-off with Philippines' forces in a key southern city has agreed to discuss a ceasefire.

About 180 gunmen from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) infiltrated six coastal districts of Zamboanga city before dawn on Monday in a siege that has left at least 22 people dead and 52 wounded.

Officials say they are holding nearly 200 civilians hostage in a crisis that has forced 24,000 residents to flee the city, reports AFP.

A spokesperson for vice president Jejomar Binay says Mr Binay and MNLF leader Nur Misuari agreed to discuss a ceasefire.

The vice president proposed that the truce begin at midnight on Saturday there and was flying to Zamboanga later in the day to begin discussions.

The spokesperson says Mr Misuari has not set any conditions in exchange for agreeing to discuss a ceasefire,

AFP says the rebels have been battling with more than 1000 Philippines' troops for the last five days, in a bid to derail peace talks aimed at ending a Muslim insurgency that has claimed 150,000 lives since the early 1970s.


Philippines' President Benigno Aquino visited Zamboanga on Friday, urging residents of the city of nearly one million to stand firm against what he described as a "desperate" effort by Mr Misuari to derail peace efforts.

Mr Misuari, the MNLF founder, accuses the government of violating the terms of a 1996 peace treaty with the his group by negotiating a separate peace deal with a rival faction, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.