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PIA Press Release

MNLF camp overrun; Dureza says fighting unfortunate

By Mimi Bern-Edaga

Zamboanga City (April 16) -- Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza described the renewed skirmishes where Government troops overran a Muslim rebel camp in Sulu as “unfortunate.”

Malik's men attacked the detachment of the 11th Marine Battalion Landing Team in Tayungan village resulting to the death of two Marine soldiers and one civilian. Eight other soldiers and another civilian were wounded after Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) headed by renegade leader Habier Ustadz Malik fired mortar rounds at a municipal hall and a military detachment in Panamao town, Sulu province, Saturday, Lieutenant Colonel Ariel Caculitan, spokesman for the Philippine Marine Corps said.

According to Major General Ruben Rafael, commander of the counter-terrorism Task Force Comet, “the attack was a clear violation of the peace agreement between the government and MNLF,” said.

He added that “the military is currently on active defense mode, moving forces to prevent further escalation of MNLF attacks, while adhering to the primary of the 1992 peace agreement but suppressing the lawlessness perpetrated by the group.”

Western Mindanao Command Chief Eugenio Cedo said, “this attack is a clear manifestation that the group of Malilk does not recognize the other MNLF groups who are cooperating against the Abu Sayyaf group (ASG). This also proves that Malik’s group is truly giving refuge to the ASG leaders who are often sighted and encountered near or within the Malik’s sanctuary” Cedo added.

“Camp Jabal Uhod, Malik’s bastion in Bitan-ag Complex, has already been occupied by government troops but WESMINCOM has its directive to Joint Task Force Comet to conduct a military offensive to neutralize the group,” WESMINCOM’s spokeperson, Maj. Eugene Batara said.

He stressed, however; that the government will continue to open dialogue with the MNLF and urge them to convince forces to stop aggressive attacks against the government and instead assist in the fight against terrorism for the benefit of the whole Sulu province.

Malik’s group is the same group that briefly hosted NCR Cmdr Chief Gen. Ben Dolorfino and defense military officials to press for the inclusion of MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari in the tripartite review of the 1996 peace accord. (PIA-ZC) [top]

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