Clashes displace 2,000 in Sulu

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The MNLF is asking its chief, Nur Misuari, to intervene to prevent a spillover of the conflict

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MANILA, Philippines – About 2,000 persons were displaced from clashes between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu, police said Tuesday, February 5.

They are now in evacuation centers in Patikul town. The displaced 349 families, or 1,870 persons, are from the remote villages of Danag (261 families), Kaunayan (66 families) and Buhanginan (22 families), according to Sulu provincial spokesman Sonny Abing III.

The MNLF said at least 50 have died in the clashes that began Saturday night, February 2, following the release of two Filipino kidnap victims in Patikul. The police and the military however are saying that 21 were killed, 13 of whom were members of the ASG.

Abing said 4 of the wounded MNLF fighters who were rushed to the provincial hospital have died.

Abing said Sulu Gov Abdusakur Tan has appealed to both groups to prevent the violence from further escalating.

“The instruction was for both groups to clam themselves so fighting would not spillover to other towns and to pacify the fighting. We don’t really know the source of the fighting,” Abing said.

Misuari should intervene

A senior leader of the MNLF’s Islamic Command Council called on their chief, Nur Misuari, to intervene in the unrest.

Habib Mujahab Hashim, chief of the MNLF’s Islamic Command Council, told a local radio station that Misuari, founder of the MNLF, himself gave order to his field commander, Habier Malik, to make war with Abu Sayyaf once negotiation for the release of hostages fail.

Kidnap victims Rolando Letrero and Ramelito Vela were freed from the Abu Sayyaf camp in Patikul town but the victims’ companion, Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani, is still in the ASG’s hands.

Atyani and two Filipino companions declared “missing” in Jolo, Sulu since June 13, 2012. 

The MNLF, which signed a final peace agreement with the Philippine government under then President Fidel Ramos, has been helping in the release of Abu Sayyaf hostages.

Hashim believes that only Misuari can break the hostilities between their colleagues and Abu Sayyaf.

“We are worried because if he will not take any action now, there’s possibility it will get worse and the number of deaths may go up,” he said.

Hashim said to date they have 23 dead, including a field commander and seven beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf. At the same time, he said about 31 fighters died on the enemy side in the fierce fighting. –

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