MANILA, Sept. 10, 2013— Police have confirmed that a priest is among the hostages held following an attack by Muslim rebels in Zamboanga City.
Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, spokesman of the Police Regional Office 9, identified the priest as Fr Michael Ufana of St. Joseph Parish.
He said members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) held the priest since yesterday along with several other hostages.
Ufana was reportedly with his parents who were celebrating their wedding anniversary yesterday when the rebels took them in Barangay Sta. Catalina.
The total number of hostages being held remains unclear, with reports ranging from 250 to more than 300.
The attack was apparently carried out by followers of former MNLF chairman Nur Misuari who wants independence from the Philippine government.
Msgr. Crisologo Manongas, administrator of the Archdiocese of Zamboanga, said Ufana was trapped in the standoff between the rebels and the government troops.
“All the time they were there until eventually their house was forced open by the MNLF and the rebels used it as a place where they put their guns,” Manongas said.
The church official said they have been praying for the safety of the hostages and an end to the fighting.
“We are praying. That is all we can do for now because we have to leave the rest to the authorities. We are also helping in distribution of food to those stranded in the evacuation centers,” he said.
Parish churches in the city opened their doors since yesterday to people fleeing the clashes between the military and the MNLF.
Manongas said all the evacuees are welcomed be they Christian or Muslim. (CBCPNews)