What Went Before: Nur Misuari-led attacks on Zamboanga City

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MANILA, Philippines—On Sept. 22, President Benigno Aquino III said the government will bring criminal charges against Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari for the deadly attacks on Zamboanga City.

About 200 rebels from a Misuari-led MNLF faction stormed Zamboanga City on Sept. 9, taking over villages, burning thousands of homes and using hostages as human shields.

According to figures from the National Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the siege left 140 dead and 268 wounded, and affected 120,000 residents in 14 barangays in Zamboanga City and one barangay in Zamboanga Sibugay.  As of Sept. 30, a total of 184 hostages have been released to the government.

Misuari has been accused of staging the Zamboanga attack because of his opposition of the peace agreement between the government and the MNLF’s rival group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The MNLF chairman has insisted on the full implementation of the final peace agreement that the MNLF signed with the government in 1996, which included the development of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The MILF and the government both hope to sign a final peace agreement before President Aquino steps down in 2016. The deal includes an expanded Moro autonomous region in Mindanao, among others.

On Oct. 2, ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said in a media forum that Misuari had deceived his men, who said they were told to come for a “peace caravan.” Many of the fighters said they were made to believe that a United Nations official was coming to officially recognize the independent Bangsamoro Republik that Misuari had declared in Sulu on Aug. 12.

Misuari has been previously charged with rebellion. In 2001, he was charged with seven others in connection with an uprising staged by his MNLF followers in Jolo, Sulu in November 2001. The attack, which left more than 100 people dead, was launched in a bid to stop the ARMM elections.

Misuari was deported in January 2002 after being arrested by Malaysian authorities for illegal entry days after the Sulu attack.

In 2006, he was placed under house arrest in New Manila, Quezon City near the St Luke’s Medical Center, where he was earlier confined for various ailments, including hypertension. After six years in detention, Misuari was released on bail in April 2008.

On Dec. 2, 2009, Judge Winlove Dumayas of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 59 dismissed the rebellion case filed against Misuari and seven others due to the prosecution’s failure to show that Misuari and his men had led the 2001 assault.

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