MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines called on Ustadz Khabir (Habier) Malik, a known follower of Moro National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari believed to be leading the attacks in Zamboanga City, to consider surrender.
“The AFP is reiterating its call for Ustadz Khabir Malik’s group to surrender and to take responsibility for their actions, especially if it will result in the safety of their hostages and the lives of his men, as well as the normalization of the whole Zamboanga City,”
military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said in a statement released by the AFP Public Affairs Office on Tuesday.
“They must consider that surrender is also an honorable option,” he added.
The MNLF rebels started their attack on Sept. 9, as they tried to hoist their flag at the city hall. It was believed to be led by the faction of Misuari, who disagrees with the latest peace deal the government is finalizing with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Based on military records, Malik has three warrants of arrest: murder, frustrated murder and attempted murder.
They took dozens of hostages to serve as human shields, and a number of them had been rescued.
In a show of boldness, MNLF gunmen abducted the Zamboanga City police chief and three of his aides before noon Tuesday even as Zagala claimed on Monday that they have recaptured 70 percent of the areas occupied by the MNLF.
As of Monday night, the military recorded 87 deaths from the fighting. There were six killed from the AFP, three from the police, seven civilians from various villages and 71 from the MNLF.
Sixty-four MNLF were arrested or surrendered, the military said.
At least 80,000 persons were displaced from the fighting as of Monday night. They were housed in several shelters.
The ongoing crisis paralyzed Zamboanga City, shuttering seaports and airports, banks and businesses. Hundreds of homes were left in ruins since the start of the conflict due to gunfire and fire incidents.
For the first time since the start of the fighting, the military also used attack helicopters to pound MNLF-occupied areas on Monday, calling them “targeted” close air support.