• Top MILF leader arrested in Cotabato

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY: A senior leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was arrested by the police in the southern city of Cotabato over the weekend.

    Ustadz Wahid Tundok, a veteran rebel commander, and several of his armed followers were in a truck when flagged down at a government checkpoint. The MILF, which is currently negotiating peace with Manila, said Tundok’s arrest was illegal.

    “The arrest is illegal because there is a ceasefire agreement between the MILF and the Philippine government,” said MILF Vice Chairman Mohagher Iqbal, who is also the group’s chief peace negotiator.

    “This needs to be resolved immediately and we are bringing this issue to the highest level of government because we don’t want this issue to affect the peace process,” he added.

    Tundok had just attended an MILF meeting in Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat town and was heading back to his base when intercepted by police forces.

    Iqbal said the rebel leader may have been set up and his movements monitored. “This could be a set up by those who are opposing the peace process,” he said, adding Tundok is a loyal MILF leader and supportive of the peace talks with government.

    Iqbal said another MILF commander, Yusoph Kusain, was also killed by police forces in Maguindanao’s Datu Paglas town following a shootout. The police were trying to arrest Kusain on various criminal cases when the fighting erupted.
    Security forces in Cotabato City and nearby areas in Maguindanao were placed on full alert afterTundok’s arrest.

    Police and military said Tundok is facing a string of criminal charges from arson to murder and is one of the most wanted men in the region and also linked to Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato, who led a series of attacks in the past against civilian and military targets in Mindanao.

    But Kato’s group denied the accusation and said Tundok is not a member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, whose armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, has been tagged in past attacks in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and North Cotabato.

    The military said Tundok will be accorded due process of law.

    “This is part of an effort to bring before the bar of justice those charged of criminal acts so they will be accorded due process of law. The Armed Forces of the Philippines is exerting all efforts toward just and lasting peace in Mindanao. The rule of law must prevail,” said Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan, a spokesman for the military forces.

    On December 6, 2013, the MILF in Lanao del Sur under Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo seized Marawi City jail to rescue two special members. They also abducted Police Chief Supt. Christopher Panapan but he was released unharmed.

    With Moh I. Saaduddin

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