• Rebels plotting to free captured leader

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY: Authorities have tightened security in Lanao del Norte after intelligence reports suggested that rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members were planning to attack a prison facility and free their leader.

    Alleged MILF commander Majid Abuat, whose group is allied with MILF commander Abdurahman Macapaar, is being held at the provincial jail here after policemen captured him while pursuing a group of armed men tagged in the abduc–tion of public school teacher Aslaime Pangader and her husband Nait on June 18 in Pantao Ragat town.

    The couple was travelling on a motorcycle when gunmen intercepted them. The motive of the abduction is still unclear.

    Because of the intelligence report, the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade under Col. Demy Tejarez said they have deployed additional forces in Iligan City to guard the prison against possible attacks by Abuat’s followers.

    “We have deployed soldiers to guard the prison as a precaution,” Tejarez told reporters.

    Police said Abuat is also facing multiple murder charges filed against him in 2010. Abuat’s armed followers now wanted a prisoner swap.

    The abduction of the couple left their four children under the care of the woman’s 40-year old sister Ashnia Limpao, who appealed to the government to help in securing the safe release of the hostages.

    “The children are suffering and they are confused because they don’t know what is going on and why their parents are being held against their will by rebels,” she said.

    There was no immediate statement from the MILF, but security officials, through the ad hoc joint action group, have informed the former rebel group about the situation.

    Pantao Ragat Mayor Eleanor Lantud also appealed to the rebels to free the couple. She said the group of Macapaar has also been reported issuing arrest warrants for people accused of crimes under the Islamic law.

    Macapaar, also known as Commander Bravo, and another MILF leader Ameril Kato were linked by authorities to deadly attacks in 2008 after a failed agreement on the Muslim homeland deal between the MILF and the Philippine government.

    The MILF has signed a peace agreement with Manila in March this year.

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