Zamboanga City on red alert after entry of MNLF members

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Tension rose as members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) passed through Zamboanga City on their way to Sulu.

Zamboanga City (CNN Philippines) — Security officials have raised a red alert for Zamboanga City following the entry of members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), officials said Tuesday.

Mayor Beng Climaco said 300 MNLF members entered the city early Monday without prior notice or coordination with her office. They came from cities and provinces in the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Caraga region.

The MNLF members were intercepted by authorities at a checkpoint and escorted by soldiers to the seaport. They were scheduled to leave for Sulu late Monday.

The MNLF members were unarmed. Travelling with them were a number of women and at least one child.

The police, however, did not cite any official reason for the security alert.

Climaco advised residents to remain calm and stay vigilant and report any untoward incident to authorities.

Meanwhile, City Legal Officer Jesus Carbon said he saw nothing wrong with the MNLF passing through the city on their way to Jolo as long as they follow the law.

An MNLF member who refused to be identified said they were on their way to Indanan, Sulu, for a meeting between MNLF leader Nur Misuari and President Rodrigo Duterte.

Misuari is facing an arrest warrant for rebellion in connection with the Zamboanga siege in 2013 when MNLF rebels attacked government forces in the city and took about 300 civilian hostages. The military said more than 200 people were killed during the fighting which lasted for almost a month.

The MNLF signed a peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996 but its members have held on to their weapons.