From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 2): MNLF denies plan to attack Zambo
A senior official of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has denied that the MNLF is consolidating its forces from Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (BaSulTa) province in preparation for a coordinated attack on this city.
Lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla, a spokesman of the MNLF, said the group has no plan to stage an attack, contrary to reports and text messages circulating the city.
Fontanilla also reiterated the MNLF demand for the conduct of an independent investigation of the siege last year that resulted in the death of hundreds of people.
The siege in Zamboanga City started on Sept. 9, 2013 and lasted for 21 days, displacing over 118,000 people who fled their homes after MNLF forces engaged government troops and policemen in fierce gun battles.
The bloody clashes killed more than 200 MNLF fighters, along with more than 20 government security forces, including junior officers of the Elite Light Reaction Companies deployed in the frontline and some civilians. It also paralyzed the economic activity in the city, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces.
Fontanilla said the group that government troops engaged belonged to rogue MNLF elements under the the Sulu State Revolutionary Command led by Ustadz Habier Malik and Khaid Ajibon, whose group continues to recognize Nur Misuari as MNLF chairman.
Fontanilla also distinguished the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is set to sign a peace agreement with the government, and the MNLF, saying that the MILF wanted greater autonomy, while the MNLF is for full independence.
Last year, Misuari declared the Bangsamoro Republic, in an apparent protest against the peace negotiations between the government of the Philippines and the MILF.
After the Zamboanga siege, Misuari became wanted for violating rebellion and international humanitarian laws.
The founding chairman of the MNLF remains at large.