Philppine military won’t interfere in Sayyaf-MNLF fighting
A senior member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) called for Muslims to stop killing Muslims yesterday as the group massed for a bigger assault on Abu Sayyaf strongholds in Sulu. The fighting, which broke out Sunday morning, has caused hundreds of villagers to flee their homes in Patikul town, where Abu Sayyaf terrorists bandits are believed to be holding Jordanian journalist Baker Abdulla Atyani.

The government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has sent out relief and health workers to the town, while police and military units are moving to prevent the fighting from spreading to populated areas.

Habib Mujahab Hashim, a senior member of the MNLF’s central committee and chairman of the group’s Islamic Command Council, said there was a pause in the fighting yesterday as the guerrillas under Ustadz Habier Malik regrouped in preparation for a bigger offensive. He said, “If this does not stop, it could lead to mutual annihilation. The only way out is to talk brother to brother.”

Many MNLF and Abu Sayyaf members are related by blood or marriage along with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday said it would not meddle in the hostilities, except to ensure the safety of civilians in the affected areas.

Col. Orlando de Leon, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade, said, “They have their own agenda. Preventing the resumption of hostilities is hard… any time, it could erupt. What we want to prevent is a spillover.”

He added, “We are ready to treat the wounded. That is provided by international humanitarian law.”

Hashim expressed worry that prolonged hostilities could lead to a serious clan war. He said, “It’s sad that Muslims are killing fellow Muslims. We also don’t condone Muslims killing Christians.”

He said he had talked to senior MNLF and Islamic religious leaders to intervene and stop the fighting, but was told that they would do so only on instructions of Misuari. He said, “They said any movement to interfere might be perceived as sabotage."

Misuari reportedly ordered the offensive after the Abu Sayyaf refused to turn over several of its hostages to the MNLF.

On Saturday night the Abu Sayyaf released a Filipino television crew, but not to the MNLF, and refused to hand over Atyani to Malik’s group. The release of the two Filipino hostages, reportedly in exchange for ransom, prompted the MNLF to attack the Abu Sayyaf’s jungle hide-outs on Sunday.

Sixteen MNLF fighters have been reported killed, with several of them beheaded, while the group estimates that the Abu Sayyaf has lost 14 men.

Misuari is running as an independent for a fresh term as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Yesterday, President Aquino emphasized that the government did not give permission for the MNLF offensive. He said, “There is no sanction, there is no clearance. They didn’t tell us that they were going to attack the Abu Sayyaf."

What he had ordered, Aquino said, was to bring about 300 families displaced by the fighting to safer ground. He also ordered the military and police to confine the violence to Patikul.

He said, “On Sunday when I first heard about the clash, our first priority of course (was the safety of) our citizens or civilians who might be caught in the conflict areas.

Sources said Misuari hoped that securing the release of the hostages would boost his chances in the ARMM race in May and improve his standing in the Organization of Islamic Conference.

The President’s Liberal Party is fielding ARMM officer-in-charge Mujiv Hataman against Misuari and former Sultan Kudarat congressman Pakung Mangudadatu of the United Nationalist Alliance for governor in the autonomous region.
Posted by: ryuge 2013-02-07