ZAMBONAGA CITY, Philippines—The head of the Moro National Liberation Front’s Islamic Council called Tuesday for an end to fighting between MNLF guerrillas and Abu Sayyaf fighters on the island of Jolo in which in which up to 26 people have been reported killed.
“It pains me to know that we are fighting against our own people,” Habib Mudjahab Hashim said, adding that those involved in the fighting were legitimate MNLF members and former forces of the group that “have allied with the ASG.”
He said MNLF commander Ustadz Habier Malik’s men clashed with the group of Hadji Hajari Hassan, a former leader of the MNLF who has reportedly joined the Abu Sayyaf led by Raddulan Sahiron.
“What has happened is painful and sad and I am wondering what motivated the two to fight each other,” he said.
Hashim said the MNLF forces who were attacked by their former comrades did not know the terrain of the area as they came from other towns.
Hashim, however, said he received reports that Malik’s group “is now assembling back his forces for an attack.”
He said they were still awaiting word from MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari, who is in Egypt, on what to do.
Senior Supt. Antonio Freyra, Sulu provincial police chief, denied reports that Malik’s group was planning to attack the Abu Sayyaf camp when he and his men were ambushed on Sunday.
“Malik’s men were simply patroling the area they occupy,” he said, referring to Camp Kan Masarin in the Datag village in the municipality of Patikul.
Chief Insp. William Conrad Gutierrez, Patikul police chief, also denied reports that Malik was regrouping his men.
“There were no monitored movements,” he said.
Gutierrez said that according to information gathered from the ground, at least seven MNLF members were killed and five were wounded in Sunday’s encounter. He said at least 13 Abu Sayyaf bandits were also killed.
An MNLF official on Monday said eight of their guerrillas were killed and beheaded by the bandits. Freyra said also on Monday that 18 bandits were killed in Sunday’s clash.