ZAMBOANGA CITY: Dozens of Muslims, including four teenagers, recruited by former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) allegedly to train as soldiers have been caught, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Wednesday.
Authorities said at least 27 people from the restive province of Basilan were held in the village of Guiwan in Zamboanga City late on Tuesday after residents tipped them off on their presence.
The recruits were supposed to travel to the town of Madamba, Lanao del Sur, and train to become soldiers at the MNLF’s Camp Jabari Nur.
They arrived in Zamboanga on a private boat.
Solice said 34 other recruits were intercepted at a police and military checkpoint in Ipil town in Zamboanga Sibugay on their way to the MNLF camp.
Most of them were recruited in Basilan, Sulu and Zamboanga City allegedly to become members of the Philippine Army after their MNLF training in Lanao del Sur where security forces are battling local Islamic State militants.
But the government has no integration program for MNLF members, although some 7,500 former rebels were admitted to the military and police in 1995 after Nur Misuari, the MNLF chairman, signed a peace deal with Manila.
Misuari is facing rebellion charges after MNLF forces attacked Jolo in 2001 and Zamboanga City twice – in 2001 and in 2013 – and some its fighters also joined the Abu Sayyaf Group in Ipil town in 1995.
It was not immediately known if the recruits paid money to become members of the MNLF or whether it was a scam perpetrated by unscrupulous people pretending to be leaders of the former rebel group.
The MNLF did not issue any statement in connection with the recruitment of Muslims in Mindanao.