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PIA Press Release

Hunt for Malik et al continues, AFP hopes for peaceful resolution in Sulu conflict

Quezon City (18 April) -- Top military brass expressed optimism that recent conflicts in Sulu would end peacefully.

Brigadier General Ruperto Pabustan, commanding general of the Joint Special Operations in Sulu, is hoping that the ‘sober’ majority of the Moro National Liberation Front would convince Ustadz Habier Malik and his supporters to ‘return to fold of the law’.

Malik was accused of launching mortar attacks against government positions in Panamao last week resulting to three casualties including a child. In retaliation, government forces overran Malik’s stronghold, Camp Jubal Uhod in Barangay Bitan-ag, and Camp Tiis in Talipao town under Commander Mamoro.

Malik and Mamoro are now branded as outlaws after fighting government troops in the last few days.

The military has reported 3 dead and 53 wounded while intelligence reports reaching the military cited at least 17 casualties and less than 50 wounded on the side of the renegades.

Elements of the Philippine Army clashed with some 20 members of the MNLF break-away group in Panamao Tuesday morning leaving one rebel dead and another one captured. Soldiers recovered an M-16 rifle and an M203 grenade launcher after rebels fled.

Pabustan believed the conflict would not spread to other places since most MNLF commanders do not share the sentiments of Malik and continue to support the 1996 GRP-MNLF peace accord.

Pabustan said government forces are now combing the mountainous areas in Panamao where Malik and his men are reported to be hiding. He assured that the hunt for Malik will continue until the renegade MNLF leader has been captured.

Pabustan also refuted Malik’s claim that the military started the hostilities by launching offensive in communities inhabited by some MNLF members. He insisted that the encounter between government troops and Abu Sayaff bandits last April 11 was legitimate. Two soldiers were killed in that encounter.

Earlier, AFP Spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro maintained that recent military actions in Sulu are limited to Malik and not directed at the MNLF. He also said most MNLF leaders are not responding to Malik’s call for jihad. (PIA) [top]

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