LIST: MNLF’s 5 major attacks

Before the siege of Zamboanga, the MNLF had launched at least 5 attacks on Sulu, Basilan, and Palawan

CHECKING ON HIS TROOPS. Nur Misuari visits an MNLF camp in Indanan, Sulu. File photo by Agence France-Presse

MANILA, Philippines – Before the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) took over 4 barangays in Zamboanga City on Monday, September 9, the group had already launched at least 5 attacks on authorities and civilians in Sulu, Basilan, and Palawan.

These exclude its clashes with the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group.


The most notorious attack was on Sulu on Nov 19, 2001, when the group attacked at least 5 Army detachments. Clashes between the Army and MNLF rebels ensued from morning until the afternoon.  

MNLF founder Nur Misuari launched the attack when he was ending his term as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Misuari was regional governor since 1996.

After his group signed a peace agreement with the Ramos administration, Misuari said the government failed to comply with the peace pact and uplift the living standards of Mindanaoans.

Misuari ordered the attack after he was dislodged as MNLF chairman in April, and after he was removed as head of the Southern Philippine Council for Peace and Development (SPCDP) in August.

At least 113 people were killed in that Sulu attack. More than 100 of them were MNLF followers.

When the fighting ceased, Misuari immediately fled to Malaysia by boat to elude pursuing government troops. He was arrested by Malaysian authorities 5 days after the Sulu later on an island near the Philippine-Malaysian border.

After his deportation, he was charged with rebellion and was jailed at Fort Sto Domingo in Sta Rosa, Laguna, in March 2002.

On April 25, 2008, Branch 59 of Makati Regional Trial Court allowed Misuari to post a P50,000 bail. All charges against him were eventually dropped for lack of sufficient evidence.


Before Misuari’s release, however, a clash between government forces and MNLF rebels in February 2007 led to the hostaging of Marine Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino and 18 others.

They were held at the MNLF base in Bitan-ag complex in Panamao, Sulu, with the hostage takers demanding more benefits under the 1996 peace accord.

Dolorfino and his camp were fetched by two air force helicopters after a lunch meeting with MNLF rebels and leader Ustadz Habier Malik two days after.

Malik expressed his disappointment in the cancellation of the tripartite agreement between the government, MNLF, and the Organization of Islamic Conference that were scheduled for later that week.


After Misuari’s release, they struck again in August 2009, with 30 to 40 rebels occupying Mantangule Island in Palawan. They took hostage 7 people on the island.

The group also attacked an Army post in Panamao, Basilan, in November 2009. The incident left 2 dead and 4 injured.


Again in September 2011, 150 MNLF members attacked a military post in Talipao, Sulu. Eleven of the rebels were killed.


In February 2013, there were clashes between the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group and MNLF in Sulu. This was after Misuari reportedly instructed commander Malik to make war with the ASG if two hostages were not released.

Clashes died down after the release of two Filipinos who served in the crew of a Jordinian journalist, Baker Atyani.

Fighting between the ASG and the MNLF resumed after the release of hostages, killing 20 and displacing around 2,000 people in Sulu

Months after the clash, MNLF attacked Zamboanga City.

Below are photos of September 9 siege of the city:


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