Philippine Rebels Contained as Siege Continues

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MANILA -- A siege by Muslim rebels on the Philippine Island of Mindanao continues for a fifth day.

Government troops have "contained" about 180 rebels from the Muslim Moro National Liberation Front. Five districts of the predominately Christian city, Zamboanga, have been secured.
  
The situation in Zamboanga remains very tense as sporadic gunfire exchanges between government soldiers and a group from the MNLF continue.

A manager of an orphanage in the city sent out a message: "Please pray - crisis not getting better. While buying food, we had to hide in a flower shop to protect ourselves from the shooting."

Brig. Gen. Omar Motiba of the MNLF said he feels the frustration MNLF founder, Nur Misuari, has over the ongoing peace talks between the Aquino government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is the biggest breakaway group of the MNLF. He says they are prepared to retaliate in case soldiers attack their camp.

The uprising is the result of Misuari's dismay over the peace framework agreement signed in 2012. He claims this has bypassed a peace treaty that the government made with his MNLF group in 1996.

According to the spokesperson of the ongoing peace process, the present agreement acknowledges that peace treaty. However, they state it also allows more provisions for wealth and power sharing that will benefit the Muslims in Mindanao - many who are living in extreme poverty.

The standoff is at the center of the city, which has become a ghost town. Security forces and tanks line the streets and the MNLF are still using over 120 people as human shields. Among those trapped are two priests and a pastor.

The fighting has spread to the nearby island of Lamitan in Basilan.

Meanwhile, a CBN disaster relief team has been organized in Zamboanga City to help feed more than 15,000 evacuees.

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