Disgruntled MNLF men hunting down Misuari too, says military official
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Nur Misuari, founding chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), is being hunted down, not only by government troops, but also by his own men, according to a military official.
Colonel Jose Johriel Cenabre, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said relatives and followers of Habier Malik, an MNLF commander, have been looking for Misuari.
Malik led the week-long siege in Zamboanga City. Hundreds of MNLF forces arrived in the city on Sept. 9, claiming they were here to march and hold a rally in Plaza Pershing. Heavily armed, their presence caused panic among residents and sparked fighting with government troops.
After three weeks of fighting and more than 110,000 people displaced, it was not clear if Malik escaped or was among the more than 160 MNLF fighters killed.
Misuari, who used to grab the limelight, was silent and nowhere to be found throughout the standoff. Earlier reports said he was in Sulu.
Cenabre, however, on Monday said Misuari was no longer in the towns of Talipao and Panamao where he was earlier reported to be hiding.
“He is afraid of Malik’s followers,” Cenabre said.
Former Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison also admitted receiving reports that Malik’s men were hunting Misuari down.
“Galit na galit sila kay Misuari dahil pinaasa ni Misuari sila Malik na hindi tatagal sa Zamboanga City at pinaniwala nito ang grupo na papasok agad ang United Nations at magdedeklara agad ng independence (They are very angry at Misuari because Misuari told them that they would not stay too long in Zamboanga City and that the United Nations would come in and declare their independence),” Arbison said.
“Niloko ni Misuari ang kanyang sariling mga tauhan at kasama, kaya ganyan ang galit ng mga tao niya (Misuari fooled his own men and followers and that’s why his people are so mad at him now),” Arbison added.
A source in Sulu said there were reports circulating in the island province that Misuari had left for Indonesia via Tawi-Tawi.
But Gen. Rey Ardo, chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said that as of Monday, they believed the Moro leader was still in Sulu. He, however, refused to give details.
Ardo said government troops were spread all over Sulu to locate Misuari and his followers.
“We continue to watch out for him. We know that he is still in Sulu,” Ardo told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.
Ardo added that the military also received reports of “growing tension between Malik and Misuari” because of what happened in Zamboanga City.
Wherever Misuari is, Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar has said she will not be raising bounty to get the MNLF leader.
“We can not contribute (for a bounty). We are looking for funds to rebuild and rehabilitate our city,” Climaco-Salazar said.
The mayor also called on Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to immediately act on their request for the transfer of the more than 200 MNLF members arrested during the weeks-long fighting.
She said the MNLF detainees should be transferred out of the city because of the “growing apprehension faced by our people if the trial is held here.”
Senior Supt. Edgar Danao, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Western Mindanao, said the Department of Justice would decide on how to transfer the MNLF detainees.
“The transfer may either be by plane or by boat, not commercial. We are looking at tapping the C130 cargo plane or navy boat,” Danao said.
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