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‘Mopping-up’ targets Malik, other stragglers

THE National Police on Sunday assumed responsibility for the clearing operations in the sections liberated from the MNLF rebels during their incursions in at least six areas in Zamboanga City that started on Sept. 9, and a day after the military accomplished its mission there. The PNP Special Action Force and Special Weapons and Tactics group were ordered to conduct” mopping-up” operations or house-to-house searches for the remaining stragglers including MNLF Commander Haber Malik, who was reported one of those killed in the fighting with the military on Sunday. “An ID belonging to Malik [was] found in one killed Nur fighter in Zamboanga [but it] is not a guarantee that he is Malik, though they have similarities,” Maj. Angelo Guzman, deputy head of the Armed Forces’ Public Affairs Office, posted on his Twitter account. MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza rejected the insinuations that Malik had been killed. “Malik is alive,” he said. Malacañang said only a few stragglers remained in Zamboanga City even as the Justice Department prepared to file charges against rebel leader Nur Misuari “in the coming days or weeks.” “There is still an ongoing clearing operation so the situation in Zamboanga City is not yet back to completely normal. There are still a few stragglers left,” Presidential Communications Development Secretary Ramon Carandang said. “It is not completely over yet, but on the whole, the MNLF has lost control of the areas that they had previously invaded in Zamboanga.” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the military accomplished its mission of containing the MNLF rebellion after 21 days of fierce fighting in which 189 of the rebels were killed, 223 were captured and 52 surrendered. Nineteen soldiers and five policemen were killed, while nine civilians were slain and 110 others displaced by the fighting. A total of 177 troops, 14 policemen and 57 civilians were wounded. Meanwhile, the MNLF on Sunday rejected the military’s claim that the MNLF had been defeated in three weeks of fighting that left Zamboanga City in ruins after 10,000 houses went in flames. “The MNLF has not been defeated. They have just withdrawn to another safe place,” Cerveza said. He said the  fighting in Zamboanga City was not over yet, and that fresh fighting could erupt someplace else until Mindanao’s independence was attained, Cerveza said. Meanwhile, the Zamboanga City Government said Sunday it will seek the transfer of all detained MNLF rebels to Manila from the San Ramon Penal Colony, which is 25 kilometers west of the city proper. With Joyce Pangco Pañares and Felino Santos, with PNA
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