Manila Times/Zamboanga City
The two rebel leaders who led the bloody three-week siege that displaced thousands of residents in Zamboanga City are still alive, a source from the Philippine National Police disclosed yesterday.
The source who declined to be identified said Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari and his top commander Ustadz Habier Malik were spotted recently by police intelligence operatives at their stronghold in Jolo, Sulu.
“They [Misuari and Malik] are in Jolo,” the source from the intelligence community said.
The source said they are Misuari is alive and as for Malik, he said “we’re still checking this. We know that he has a son that bore a big resemblance to him in facial features”.
There is a standing manhunt for the two MNLF leaders.
Earlier reports said that Misuari immediately fled to Malaysia after the siege that killed dozens of soldier and more than a hundred MNLF fighters.
Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom ) chief lieutenant general Rey Ardo believed that Malik died during the standoff.
Defence secretary Voltaire Gazmin on November 4 last year said that Malik was “obviously dead” but “we don’t have evidence” to prove it.
Malik and hundreds of his men attacked Zamboanga City on September 9 aiming to hoist their flag and declare their independence from government.
This prompted the government to send hundreds of troops and policemen to reclaim the city from MNLF control.
The source added that Misuari and Malik still have many armed followers securing them, but this pales in comparison to the more than 300 men that took part in the three-week siege.
The source added that they are checking reports that Malik’s is apparently trying to forge an alliance with the heir of Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram, whose followers tried to reclaim Sabah from Malaysia early last year.
“Malik’s group is dangerous . . . they are nationalistic in nature and they have the potential to become the counter part of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS] here,” said the the source who has provided in the past vital information on the alleged recruitment of young Filipino Muslims to become ISIS followers.
The recruitment drive is reportedly being spearheaded by Zulkipli Bin Hir alias “Marwan” the Malaysian Bomb expert and JI member who is also said o behind in the Bali Bombing on October 2002 that killed hundreds of Australian tourist and injuring scores of others.
A Protestant pastor and his father were killed in an ambush in Zamboanga del Norte, police said yesterday.
Police said four others were wounded in the October 22 attack which occurred in the village of Nasibac in Leon Postigo town. It said masked gunmen opened fire on the group of pastor Ramil Ansong, 29, and his 50-year old father, Jose, killing both of them.
The four, including the pastor’s mother, Rosaria, managed to escape from the attackers despite their wounds.
Police said the young Ansong was a pastor at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, a Protestant Christian denomination distinguished by its observance of Saturday, the original seventh day of the Judeo-Christian week, as the Sabbath.
Inspector Dahlan Samuddin, a regional police spokesman, said the victims were heading to the town’s centre to collect government pension when gunmen attacked them from the bushes.
He said policemen recovered bullet casings of M16 and M1rifles in the area.
“We are still investigating the motive of the attack and those involved in the murders,” Samuddin said.
Two soldiers from the 45th Infantry Battalion were killed when suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) stormed a hospital in Maguindanao on Wednesday night.
Colonel Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Philippine army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the two soldiers were manning the newly-renovated Maguindanao Integrated Provincial Hospital (MIPH) in Datu Hoffer town when the suspects attacked them about 9pm. He did not identify the slain soldiers until their families have been notified.
Initial reports said the suspects entered the hospital pretending as visitors to patients. They pointed their guns at the soldiers and forced them to surrender their M-16 rifles, and used the seized weapons to kill the soldiers before fleeing.
MIPH chief Tahir Sulaik condemned the barbaric acts of the perpetrators.
“We vehemently condemn the attack inside the hospital, we are open to all who seek our assistance but I was very sad they did it there,” Sulaik was quoted as saying.
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