'Malik died in Sulu' in October
MANILA, Philippines – The saga of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) commander Habier Malik continues. No, nobody is claiming he is alive. But latest military reports show he apparently died in Sulu in October, meaning he escaped from the supposedly contained combat zone in Zamboanga City.
"He died of complication. He was badly wounded. He died during the Al Hajj when he was trying to break fast. Medically speaking, that caused his death because he did not receive proper treatment," Sulu-based 2nd Marine Brigade Commander Colonel Jose Johriel Cenabre told reporters in Manila on Tuesday, January 7.
Al Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, which happened in October last year. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin earlier declared that Malik was "obviously" dead.
Malik is the top lieutenant of MNLF founder Nur Misuari. He led some 300 MNLF fighters in laying siege on Zamboanga City and trying to hoist their flag of independence at its city hall in September. The military blocked them, starting a standoff that lasted 3 weeks. Malik declared he was willing to die there.
Cenabre said the military is still looking for Malik's body but "since then, all information led to his death." He said Malik was last seen "somewhere in Kalingalan Caluang," an impoverished town known to be a territory of the MNLF commander.
There are those who maintain that Malik died in Zamboanga and likely buried inside the combat zone. He was supposedly seen wounded a few days before the crisis was declared over.
"As I mentioned, he was so badly wounded and he wasn’t able to receive proper medical attention and during that duration of the Al Hajj, apparently he died," said Cenabre.
MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza was earlier quoted saying Malik died in December due to diabetes.
Malik protested the talks between the government and the rival group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). In an interview with Rappler in September, Malik said he feared that the new agreement with the MILF would supersede the 1996 agreement with the MNLF. (READ: Habier Malik: Trapped in the city he seized)
Misuari, Malik, and over 200 captured MNLF fighters are now facing rebellion charges. Misuari remains at large, however. (READ: How to arrest a rebel like Misuari)
Their arraignment is expected this January. (READ: Over 200 MNLF fighters move to Metro Manila jail) – Rappler.com