Misuari makes appearance in Sulu
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Fugitive Moro leader Nur Misuari renewed a call for independence for Mindanao when he resurfaced in Panamao, Sulu, three days ago after months of lying low and not being seen in public, a Moro National Liberation Front official said Tuesday.
Habib Mudjahab Hashim, chair of the MNLF’s Islamic Command Council, said Misuari appeared before the group’s members and supporters, who had gathered in the remote village of Lampayag on August 24. Lampayag is located between Panamao and Talipao towns.
Hashim said some 2,000 MNLF members attended the assembly, which was called by Misuari.
“It’s a political assembly. As of now, there are no plans to attack,” he said.
Hashim said people who claim the MNLF was poised to stage more attacks were out to discredit the erstwhile rebel group.
On August 12 last year, Misuari declared the independence of Mindanao during an MNLF rally in the village of Taglibi, also Panamao.
Barely a month after that declaration, MNLF gunmen attacked Zamboanga City, triggering nearly a month of fighting in which more than 200 people, including hostages held by the MNLF gunmen, were killed. More than 120,000 residents were displaced as Misuari’s men burned and looted more than 10,000 structures.
Hashim said Misuari’s stay in the jungles of Sulu “made him stronger.”
“He is healthy now, physically and mentally. He just had some allergies last year,” he said.
Ustadz Abdulbaki Abubakar, one of those who attended a June 2014 meeting in Jeddah of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and some Philippine officials, also attended the August 24 assembly in Panamao, according to Hashim.
Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said all the troops deployed in Zamboanga and in other parts of Mindanao “were prepared for any threat.”
“Definitely we should be able to address it if [it’s a serious one] and there are contingencies in place for that,” he said in a telephone interview.
But Zagala said military authorities had yet to verify the reported assembly in Panamao and Misuari’s new independence declaration.
MNLF spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla said the assembly took place even if there are outstanding warrants for Misuari’s arrest.
He said similar gatherings were also held in MNLF communities, including those in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
“Gatherings were held in almost all MNLF bases in Mindanao,” Fontanilla said.
Fontanilla, a lawyer, said the MNLF “have already abdicated the use of violence and we want to resolve this (Moro question) peacefully.”
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