ZAMBOANGA CITY: Security forces killed two Moro National Liberation Front rebels in a clash Thursday during a clearing operation in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines, officials said.
Officials said the two bearded stragglers were armed with an M14 rifle and a machete when they attacked a group of soldiers and policemen in the village of Santa Catalina, scene of deadly clashes between security and rebel forces led by Ustadz Khabir Malik last month.
One of the slain rebels was carrying an identification card bearing the name of Nasser Dawali, of Sulu province.
Police have launched a manhunt for Misuari, who is being blamed for deadly attacks on September 9 that left over 400 people dead and wounded in Zamboanga. The fighting lasted for three weeks and resulted in a humanitarian crisis.
About 400 separatist rebels stormed villages and seized over 200 civilians and used them as shield against security forces as they tried, but failed to fly MNLF flags at City Hall. At the end of the street battles, over 200 rebels had been captured or surrendered to state forces and are also facing criminal charges.
Judge Eric Elumba signed the arrest warrant for Misuari and three of his lieutenants—Bas Arki, Assamin Hussin and Malik—and other people implicated in the attacks.
Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, a regional police spokesman, who has a copy of the arrest warrant, said Misuari’s group is facing rebellion and other string of criminal charges, including violation of the Republic Act Number 9851 or the Philippines Act on Crimes against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and other crimes against humanity.
Just early this month, police raided the bungalow of Misuari in Zamboanga City and recovered explosives and anti-government propaganda, but failed to capture the former Libyan firebrand, who is believe to be hiding in Sulu archipelago and is reportedly planning to escape to Malaysia or Indonesia and travel to a Muslim country to seek political asylum. Malik also escaped a massive dragnet in Zamboanga and could have rejoined Misuari.
Misuari signed a peace agreement with Manila in September 1996 ending decades of bloody fighting in the southern region. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of Muslim autonomous region.
But many former rebels were disgruntled with the accord, saying, the government failed to comply with some of its provisions and uplift their standards of living. They accused the government of failing to develop the war-torn areas in the South, which remain in mired in poverty, heavily militarized and dependent financially on Manila.
In November 2001, on the eve of the elections in the autonomous region, Misuari accused the government of reneging on the peace agreement, and his followers launched a new rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga City, where more than 100 people were killed.
Misuari escaped by boat to Malaysia, but was arrested there and deported back to the Philippines. He was eventually freed in 2008 after Manila dropped all charges against him for lack of sufficient evidence.
Despite his fiery accusations against the government and even while in jail, Misuari still ran thrice for governor in Sulu province, but terribly lost all elections. And in May this year, he also ran for governor in the Muslim autonomous region, bragging his aspiration is supported by millions of Muslims, but he ended up losing again. AL JACINTO