AFP enforces ‘constricting’ strategy to save remaining hostages

MANILA, (PNA) — Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the “constricting strategy” being implemented by the military against the remaining Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters is being done to safeguard the lives of the remaining hostages.

“The area of constriction is now smaller and the forces of Commander Habier Malik only have a little area to move on,” he added.

AFP operations are focused in Barangays Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina and Rio Hondo.

Zagala declined to give specifics but said that these areas will get smaller and smaller.

“That’s the reason why our men are fighting in close-quarters and why we have a lot of men getting wounded,” the AFP public affairs office chief stressed.

“Our goal really is to close in as much as we can so that we can eventually rescue the hostages and neutralize the (remaining) MNLF Misuari Faction,” he pointed out.

The death toll between government troopers, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters and civilians caught in the crossfire has now climbed to 125 as of Sunday noon.

Maj. Angelo Guzman, AFP deputy public affairs office chief, said this can be broken down to:

— AFP: 11 killed, 133 wounded in action

— PNP: 3 killed, 13 wounded

— Civilians: 12 killed, 49 wounded.

— MNLF: 99 killed, 72 captured and 45 surrendered.

Guzman said the number of hostages rescued is now 174 (out of the 183 taken earlier).

Captured high-powered firearms is 64 and 13 low-powered ones.