Monday, September 26, 2011

Philippine military tags MNLF members in Sulu attack

Police commandos patrol Sulu province in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 26, 2011) – The Philippine military tagged a leader of the former Muslim rebel group Moro National Liberation Front as behind an attack that killed two soldiers in the southern province of Sulu.

It said Ustadz Habier Malik led some 150 MNLF members in attacking a military post in Talipao town over the weekend, sparking a fierce gun battle that killed 11 of his followers, including a sub-leader Salip Jainal Kausi.

Marine Major Dennis Hernandez, of the Joint Task Force-Sulu, said Malik’s group was opposing the construction of US-funded school buildings in the village of Kabungkol in Talipao town.

Hernandez said troops in the area were guarding the construction of the school when Malik’s forces attacked them. The fighting also left six soldiers wounded.

“More or less 150 renegade MNLF members armed with high powered firearms to include mortars, light machineguns and recoilless rifle, staged the daring attack at the break of dawn which was repulsed by the brave and determined soldiers though so much outnumbered,” he said.

“The action of the rebel group is related to their opposition on the on-going developmental projects being undertaken in the area. Three more school buildings will be constructed to cater to the growing number of students and pupils, and to improve the educational situation in the area in support to the current thrust of the Department of Education and the local government units of Sulu,” he added.

Police and military earlier reported that the attack was carried out by a new group called Jat Wahibul Ujud, whose slain leader was a religious fanatic.

Malik is facing a string of criminal charges after his group had previously held hostage over two dozens military and defense officials while visiting Sulu province in 2007.

Malik and Khaid Ajibun, another senior MNLF leader, held Marine Major General Benjamin Dolorfino and Defense Undersecretary Ramon Santos, and 23 soldiers and staff of Presidential peace adviser, Secretary Jesus Dureza and demanded the release of Nur Misuari, the group’s chieftain who was then being detained in Manila on rebellion charges.

Misuari signed a peace deal with the Philippine government in September 1996, ending more than 20 years of bloody fighting in the southern Philippines.

After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of autonomous region. But many former rebels were disgruntled with the accord, saying, the government failed to comply with some of its provisions and uplift their standards of living. They accused the government of failing to develop the war-torn areas in the south, which remain in mired in poverty, heavily militarized and dependent financially on Manila.

In November 2001, on the eve of the ARMM elections, Misuari accused the government of reneging on the peace agreement, and his followers launched a new rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga City, where more than 100 people were killed.

Misuari escaped by boat to Malaysia, but was arrested there and deported to the Philippines. He was eventually freed in 2008 after Manila dropped all charges against him for lack of sufficient evidence.

Malik’s group was also being blamed by the military for the killing of two US soldiers and a Filipino marine in a landmine explosion in Sulu’s Indanan town on September 2009, and to the spate of attacks on government targets in the province the past years. (Mindanao Examiner)

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