MNLF fighters urged to declare jihad

- Roel Pareño () - September 29, 2009 - 12:00am

ZAMBOANGA CITY , Philippines  – The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has reportedly urged its fighters and supporters to declare a jihad (holy war) against the military offensive in Sulu, according to authorities.

But military officials and ground commanders said that the call might just be another Abu Sayyaf ploy to draw the MNLF into the hostilities.

MNLF leader Habier Malik, wanted for initiating a string of attacks against the military, reportedly issued the call for holy war through text messages that circulated in Jolo and other areas in Sulu province.

Malik is allegedly accusing government troops of attacking the MNLF camp in Indanan last Sept. 21 during the celebration of Eid al-Fitr.

The MNLF leader was suspected to be behind the ambush and killing of eight Marines and wounding nine others at Sitio Talibang, Barangay Bato-Bato, Indanan town, a day after Eid al-Fitr.

Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ben Dolorfino, Western Mindanao (Westmincom) chief, confirmed the circulation of the reported calls for jihad but denied Malik was responsible.

He said Malik’s name was just being used by the Abu Sayyaf to draw the MNLF rebels into engaging government troops.

“That (jihad) call is contained in a text message that placed words in the mouth of Ustadz Habier Malik,” Dolorfino said. “The text message is obviously Abu Sayyaf’s disinformation to draw the MNLF into their extremism.”

He said Malik was able to contact Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan and assured the latter that he will not support the Abu Sayyaf.

“Malik assured Gov. Tan he will never support the terrorist cause and will not launch hostility except if the government forces will attack his position,” Dolorfino said.

He said they are countering the Abu Sayyaf disinformation campaign through coordination with local leaders and local media to reach out to the villagers and the MNLF members in Sulu.

“Our campaign is only directed against the Abu Sayyaf and their JI (Jemaah Islamiyah) cohorts,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, newly installed Task Force Comet commander, also confirmed receiving the text message calling for jihad using the premise that the military allegedly launched an offensive against the MNLF.

“The allegation that we attacked the MNLF is not true. The offensive was against the Abu Sayyaf,” Guerrero said.

Lt. Col. Ariel Caculitan, commander of the 4th Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT), said they are still validating the reported call to jihad.

Caculitan said they don’t see any valid reason for Malik to launch a holy war, citing the positive gains of development the military has implemented in several areas that are hardly reached by local government services.

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