Police and military operatives were preparing an operation to serve an arrest warrant on rebel leader Nur Misuari, who was being guarded by hundreds of armed followers in his stronghold in Sulu, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Thursday.
He said the government will launch a joint operation of policemen and soldiers to bring Misuari, leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), under custody for ordering an attack on Zamboanga City last year in which hundreds of people were killed and thousands lost their homes during almost one month of fighting.
“The armed forces right now has contained him (Misuari) in one place. He has a warrant of arrest and this must be served on him,” Gazmin said.
Misuari, a member of the Tausug tribe, has been one of the enduring leaders of the Muslim secessionist war that has sputtered off and on for the past 40 years. He was a former governor of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao.
About 300 MNLF rebels occupied five coastal barangays of Zamboanga City in August last year and placed the city under siege for almost one month. About 200 people were killed, 200 rebels captured and 120,000 lost their homes in the fighting.
Gazmin said the operation against Misuari was being prepared so as not to repeat a disaster in which 19 soldiers were killed and 14 seriously wounded when they tried to serve warrants of arrest on members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Abbu Sayyaf Group in a rebel camp in 2002.
“We’re assessing that very carefully so the confrontation will not be bloody if ever during the serving of the warrant,” Gazmin said.
In Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, the surviving members of the “Top 90” MNLF leaders have declared Misuari “persona non grata” for his “leadership blunders that put the organization into disarray,” according to Abdul Khayr Alonto.
Alonto said the 32 surviving members of the “Top 90” have chosen him to replace Misuari, who is now wanted by the government for ordering the attack on Zamboanga City.
He said they support the peace process being forged by the government and the Maguindanao-based Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which will allow people in Mindanao to live again in peace.
“Our remaining group members believe that the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which Congress will soon take up, is a vital instrument that will ultimately answer our decades-long quest for peace and stability in the country’s second largest island region,” Alonto said.
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