Nur Misuari back, declares independence anew
ZAMBOANGA CITY—Moro leader Nur Misuari has renewed his call for independence when he resurfaced near the town of Panamao, Sulu province, after months of hiding, a Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) official confirmed on 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 Aug. 24.
Lampayag is between Panamao and Talipao towns.
Hashim said some 2,000 MNLF members attended the assembly, which Misuari called for.
“It was a political assembly. As of now, there are no plans to attack,” Hashim said.
He said reports saying that the MNLF was ready to launch attacks to restart a war for an independent Moro state in Mindanao were just meant to discredit the group, which had entered into a peace agreement with the government in 1996 under then President Fidel Ramos.
On Aug. 12 last year, Misuari also rallied his supporters to cling to a campaign to win independence for the Moro people in Mindanao. He made the declaration of independence in the village of Taglibi in Panamao town, a stronghold of Misuari follower Habier Malik.
Barely a month after that declaration, MNLF gunmen went on a rampage in this city, entering and occupying heavily populated communities.
The occupation of communities by the MNLF was followed shortly by a government offensive that razed homes and businesses to the ground and sent thousands of residents fleeing to evacuation centers, some of which continue to host evacuees.
At least 200 people, including civilian hostages, were killed in the gunfights and more than 120,000 residents were displaced in the terror attack and the government offensive that followed.
Misuari’s men burned and looted more than 10,000 structures.
Hashim said Misuari’s hiatus in the jungles of Sulu “made him stronger.”
“He is healthy now, physically and mentally. He just had some allergies last year,” he said.
Abdulbaki Abubakar, one of those who attended a meeting with the Organization of the Islamic Conference in June 2014 by the MNLF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), also attended the Aug. 24 assembly near Panamao, according to Hashim.
Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said all government forces that were still stationed in this city and other parts of Mindanao “are 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 the military had yet to verify the assembly near Panamao and Misuari’s new declaration. Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao
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