MANILA, OCTOBER 7, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Jaime Laude - Government security forces have been deployed in Sulu to track down the possible location of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari (photo), who is facing rebellion charges for allegedly masterminding the 20-day Zamboanga City siege staged by his followers.

Joint Task Force Sulu and 2nd Marine Brigade commander Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre has also ordered the deployment of troops in all possible escape routes of Misuari.

Cenabre likened the search effort to a chess game since all their moves are based on anticipation.

“We keep tracking his whereabouts and locations in coordination with the local government and our police counterparts,” he said.

Misuari was reported to have monitored the fighting between his followers, headed by his trusted aide Habier Malik, and government troops last month.

Cenabre said the Philippine Navy has also deployed several gunboats to prevent Misuari’s escape, possibly to Malaysia, if he is still in the island province.

There were reports that Misuari has been moved by 100 of his heavily armed followers outside of their camp in Talipao after the government, through the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) based in Western Mindanao, filed rebellion and Crime Against International Humanitarian Law charges against him before the Zamboanga City court.

On reports that the badly-beaten Malik is back in Sulu with 10 of his followers, Cenabre said this could be a ploy in order to hide what really happened to the MNLF commander.

“As requested by local residents, Marine troops have been deployed in Malik’s area at sitio Lampaya and sitio Tuyang in Talipao. He is not there. For now, talks of his return were purely based on insinuations,” Cenabre said.

The Zamboanga City siege left 24 soldiers and policemen dead and 194 wounded.

Fourteen civilians were also killed in the fighting while 54 others were wounded.

Meanwhile, 192 MNLF rebels were killed while 254 were captured or have surrendered.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Navy logistic ship, BRP Benguet left Sangley Point in Cavite yesterday for Zamboanga City with 391 tons of relief goods donated by various organizations to help civilians displaced by the recent fighting.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Gerlad Fabic, Navy spokesman, said the relief goods are composed of drinking water, canned goods, packed foods, medicine, clothing and blankets.

Good lesson learned

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said recently that if there is one good lesson highlighted in the Zamboanga attack, it is the fact that peace cannot be achieved through guns and violence.

In a recent speech posted on the website of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Deles was quoted as saying that the country cannot have peace without strictly enforcing the rule of law.

“The armed fighting in Zamboanga City highlighted certain things that we already know about the pursuit of peace. Clearly you cannot have peace when you are talking on the table and they put a gun to your head,” Deles said.

She condemned the acts of violence perpetrated by people who she said want to derail the journey to a just and lasting peace that would soon bring jobs, infrastructure programs and quality education to the Bangsamoro people, if not the whole of Mindanao. – With Roel Pareño, Jose Rodel Clapano

Floods add misery after MNLF siege in Zamboanga City 5:53 pm | Saturday, October 5th, 2013

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Heavy rains flooded evacuation centers in Zamobanga City, adding more misery for thousands of people displaced by a bloody Muslim rebel siege, officials said Saturday.

Almost a month after followers of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari besieged Zamboanga, over 116,000 people — around one tenth of the port city’s population — are still sheltering in evacuation centers, where there is a shortage of toilets and medicine.

But government tents have been unable to withstand the heavy rain which has been falling since Friday, causing knee-deep floods said Adriano Fuego, the area’s civil defense chief.

“The waters are as high as knee deep in some places. It is mostly muddy (there) and the people are getting soaked,” Fuego said.

Of the 71,000 people sheltering at the main evacuation centre in the city’s sports stadium, 46,000 have had to be moved from their tents to higher ground, while the rest sheltered in the elevated stands, Fuego said.

The government has begun constructing raised plywood shelters with tin roofs to replace the tents with fears that thousands will not be able to return home for months, he added.

“No evacuation centres have closed because they still cannot return to their neighbourhoods since the clearing operations are still going on,” he said, referring to police and military searches in the siege area for unexploded ordnance, booby traps, dead MNLF fighters and possible rebel stragglers.

The government declared the rebel action crushed on September 28 with the release of the last of 195 hostages, but the areas where the fighting took place are still largely off-limits to civilians until they are cleared.

However the heavy rains have also affected clearing operations, said police spokesman Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca.
“It is flooding in a lot of places, even at our offices at the police camp,” he said.

Zamboanga police on Friday brought in another MNLF straggler found in a ruined house.

Hajar Hajun, said “I have been hiding in the ceiling, surviving by drinking rain water. I was afraid to surrender for fear I would be killed.”

He was among hundreds of heavily armed MNLF fighters who entered Zamboanga City on September 9 in an effort to disrupt government peace talks with a rival Muslim group.

They took residents hostage and set fire to about 10,000 houses during three weeks of fighting with soldiers and police.
The military said an estimated 206 MNLF fighters, 25 government troops and 13 civilians were killed in the violence.

Police are continuing their search for Misuari following a raid on his Zamboanga City home on Friday which recovered explosives and documents but failed to catch the MNLF leader, Huesca said.

Muslim rebels have been fighting since the 1970s for an independent or autonomous homeland in the south of the mainly Catholic Philippines.

An estimated 150,000 people have died in the conflict.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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