THE two rebel leaders who led the bloody three-week siege that displaced thousands of residents in Zamboanga City are still alive, a source from the Philippine National Police disclosed on Thursday.
The source who declined to be identified said Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari and his top commander Ustadz Habier Malik were spotted recently by police intelligence operatives at their stronghold in Jolo, Sulu.
“They [Misuari and Malik] are in Jolo,” the source from the intelligence community said.
The source said they are Misuari is alive and as for Malik, he said “we’re still checking this. We know that he has a son that bore a big resemblance to him in facial features”.
There is a standing manhunt for the two MNLF leaders.
Earlier reports said that Misuari immediately fled to Malaysia after the siege that killed dozens of soldier and more than a hundred MNLF fighters.
Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom ) chief Lt. Gen. Rey Ardo believed that Malik died during the standoff.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on November 4 last year said that Malik was “obviously dead” but “ we don’t have evidence” to prove it.
Malik and hundreds of his men attacked Zamboanga City on September 9 aiming to hoist their flag and declare their independence from government.
This prompted the government to send hundreds of troops and policemen to reclaim the city from MNLF control.
The source added that Misuari and Malik still have many armed followers securing them, but this pales in comparison to the more than 300 men that took part in the three-week siege.
The source added that they are checking reports that Malik’s is apparently trying to forge an alliance with the heir of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram, whose followers tried to reclaim Sabah from Malaysia early last year.
“Malik’s group is dangerous . . . they are nationalistic in nature and they have the potential to become the counter part of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS] here,” said the the source who has provided in the past vital information on the alleged recruitment of young Filipino Muslims to become ISIS followers.
The recruitment drive is reportedly being spearheaded by Zulkipli Bin Hir alias “Marwan” the Malaysian Bomb expert and JI member who is also said o behind in the Bali Bombing on October 2002 that killed hundreds of Australian tourist and injuring scores of others.