May 07 2007
ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 08 May) – Four Moro National Liberation Front rebels were killed in fierce battle Tuesday in the southern Philippines, officials said.
Marine Brig. Gen. Juancho Sabban, deputy chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said troops clashed with wanted MNLF leader Ustadz Khabir Malik. “It was Malik’s group,” he told the independent regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.
Maj. Eugene Batara, a regional army spokesman, said the fighting erupted before 6 a.m. in the village of Kambing in Kalingalan Caluang town in Jolo island after patrolling soldiers caught up with some 200 gunmen.
“The fighting is still going on. We have sent additional troops in the area. Four enemies are killed,” Batara said in a separate interview.
There were no immediate reports of military casualties, he said.
A Philippine court has ordered the arrest of Malik and ten others in connection with simultaneous attacks April 13 that killed three soldiers in the restive island, about 950 km south of Manila.
Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, Southern Philippines military commander, said the warrants include 3 counts for murder, two counts for frustrated murder and six counts for attempted murder.
Troops were battling Malik’s forces accused of attacking a marine base and the town hall of Panamao town, killing three soldiers and a civilian.
The military also accused Malik’s group of sheltering Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya terrorists on the island, about 950 km south of Manila.
“He is a fugitive man and we will help the police track down and arrest Malik and those who are involved in the attacks,” Cedo said.
Malik has denied military allegations that they were coddling terrorists.
Malik accused the military of attacking MNLF forces and killed civilians in the guise of pursuing the Abu Sayyaf and the Jemaah Islamiya.
The military said it was targeting Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya hiding in the camp controlled by the MNLF. Last month, soldiers shelled a base of Khaid Ajibun, one of the most influential MNLF rebel leaders in Jolo island.
The MNLF, under Nur Misuari, signed a peace agreement with Manila in September 1996. But Misuari accused the Arroyo government of failing to honor the accord and his forces attacked a major army base in Jolo in 2000.
Misuari fled to Malaysia, but had been arrested and deported to the Philippines. He is now facing rebellion charges.
The military said it killed and wounded dozens of rebels since the fighting broke out in Jolo, a claim strongly denied by the MNLF.
Some 8,000 soldiers are involved in the operation against about a thousand MNLF rebels and Abu Sayyaf members and a dozen Jemaah Islamiya militants, including Dulmatin and Umar Patek, who were both implicated in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people. (Mindanao Examiner)