'MNLF fighters prepare for bigger offensive'
Roel Pareño (The Philippine Star) - February 5, 2013 - 12:07pm

ZAMBOANGA City, Philippines - Fighting in the jungles of Patikul, Sulu has halted as fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) prepared for a bigger offensive against the Abu Sayyaf bandits, a senior official of the rebel group said Tuesday.

Habib Mujahab Hashim, chairman of the MNLF's Islamic Command Council (ICC) said that Moro fighters under the command of Ustadz Habier Malik are regrouping in the mountains of Patikul, Sulu.

“There is no firing taking place, but hundreds of forces of Malik are regrouping...,” Hashim said.

He said that as of Tuesday, at least 16 fighters under Malik's command have been confirmed killed, with some of them beheaded.

There was still no official figure on the casualties on the side of the Abu Sayyaf group under Radullan Sahiron, believed to be holding Jordanian journalist Baker Abdulla Atyani captive. Earlier reports said that at least 14 bandits have been killed in the clashes that started over the weekend.

Hashim, meanwhile, raised fears that the fighting between the groups might intensify as it was the first time that MNLF fighters were beheaded by fellow Muslim figters.

He said that he has talked with senior MNLF leaders and Ulamas or highly-respected Muslim religious leaders to intervene and stop the hostilities, but was told that they could only interfere with the go-signal of MNLF chairman Nur Misuari.

He said that Misuari gave the instruction to pursue Sahiron's group after the bandits refused to release Atyani.

Atyani's crew members, cameraman Ramel Vela and audio technician Rolando Letriro, were released by the bandits on Saturday night in the jungles of Patikul.

"I would call on brother Misuari to stop the operation. The only way out is to talk brother to brother,” Hashim said.

“If [the fighting] will not stop, this will tend to annihilation of race. I have serious doubt na maubos nila lahat mga Abu Sayyaf,” Hashim said. “Nakakalungkot Muslim nagpapatayan kapwa Muslim. We don’t also condone Muslim killing Christians.” he said.

ABU SAYYAF ATYANI BAKER ABDULLA ATYANI HABIB MUJAHAB HASHIM HASHIM ISLAMIC COMMAND COUNCIL MISUARI MORO NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT NAKAKALUNGKOT MUSLIM PATIKUL
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