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Christians Used as Human Shields by Philippines Rebels

Hostages remain after weeks-long conflict as more than 80,000 evacuate predominantly Christian city.
Christians Used as Human Shields by Philippines RebelsMarion Doss/Flickr
Philippine military training exercises in Zamboanga peninsula.

Extended fighting between Muslim separatists and the Philippine military has forced 80,000 people to evacuate the predominantly Christian city of Zamboanga.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) deliberately selected dozens of Christian hostages and used them as human shields, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). The MNLF is fighting a proposed peace treaty between the Philippine government and another Islamist faction, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), reports the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines are also under scrutiny by HRW for allegedly torturing and mistreating suspected rebels, reports the Inquirer.

The two-week struggle has killed more than 100 people, mostly rebels. The MNLF may still be holding as many as 25 hostages, but as of Thursday, the military had regained control of 70 percent of the southern city, the sixth-largest in the Philippine Islands.

Despite the blatant selection of Christians as human shields, the conflict is not so much religious as it is political, said the mayor of Zamboanga City, Maria Isabelle Climaco Salazar. The fighting is not an outright assault on Christians in the region, but a rebellion against the proposed treaty between the MILF and the Philippine government, she said.

CT previously reported on the peace treaty, which would grant MILF control of a region of the southern island of Mindanao where the Muslim group could implement Shari'ah law. However, MNLF leaders claim the Bangsamoro treaty violates a 1996 treaty between their own faction and the Philippine government.

CT has regulary reported on the Philippines, including Gracia Burnham, a New Tribes missionary who was held hostage by Islamist militants with her husband in the southern Philippines.

Related Topics:Philippines
Posted:September 20, 2013 at 12:37PM
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