Zamboanga assault hatched in January

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THE attack on Zamboanga City by some 300 members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) loyal to Nur Misuari was carefully planned by the group for nearly nine-months, a senior police official disclosed on Tuesday.

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Philippine National Police (PNP) deputy chief for operations, Deputy Director General Felipe Rojas disclosed on Tuesday as police now takes over the clearing operation in Zamboanga City, which became a battle-zone for the past three weeks.

“We have received reports that they [MNLF] started training and preparing for this [attack]as early as January,” Rojas told reporters during a press briefing in Camp Crame.

The PNP official said that MNLF rebels have started stockpiling weapons and ammunitions in Zamboanga City and other areas in preparation for their plan of “declaring” their own independence.

The PNP official said that MNLF members in Sulu started their journey to Zamboanga City on September 6 and the next day, MNLF members based in Basilan also began their move toward Zamboanga City.

“Their [MNLF] original plan is to march to the [Zamboanga] city hall and raise their flag . . . but, this did not happen and our troops, the navy was able to intercept them at the sea where we lost one frogman,” Rojas said.

The PNP official added that MNLF forces loyal to Misuari also planned to launch simultaneous and similar activity in outlying provinces more particularly in Jolo, Sulu a known bailiwick of the group during their rebellion in the 70’s.

“But this did not materialize as the local government of Sulu led by Gov. Sakur Tan and his people [strongly]opposes this and they said they will not allow them [MNLF] to raise their flag in Jolo,” Rojas said.

The PNP official said that they have already taken over from the military the clearing operations in Zamboanga City, which he said it could take them at least two more weeks for their forces to complete the clearing operations.

“We have cleared at least 50 percent and it could take us two more weeks to complete the clearing operations . . . and we are doing our best to regain the normalcy of the situation in Zamboanga City,” Rojas said.

More than 200 persons, including 12 civilians, have been killed in three weeks of fighting between government troops and MNLF rebels in Zamboanga City while more than a hundred rebels have been captured or surrendered.

The MNLF have also held hostages and used as human shields some 194 civilians, all of whom have already been rescued or escaped from their captors.

Rojas said that they are still verifying reports that Ustadz Habier Malik, the commander of the group that attacked Zamboanga City and loyal supporter of Misuari have been killed in the fighting.

Anthony Vargas

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