Military fails to arrest fugitive MNLF chieftain Nur Misuari
SECURITY FORCES have failed to arrest Nur Misuari, chieftain of the Moro National Liberation Front, following a massive show of force during a recent plenum in the southern Philippine province of Sulu.
Misuari is wanted by authorities after his forces attacked Zamboanga City twice – first in 2001 and the second was in 2013 – that left over 300 people dead and wounded in three weeks of street battles.
A huge group of MNLF members, mostly armed with heavy weapons, and Abu Sayyaf rebels attended the meeting called by Misuari in Indanan town to discuss the upcoming meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Misuari is reportedly planning to attend the summit despite a string of criminal charges filed by authorities against him and about 300 others who took part in the siege of Zamboanga.
The plenum forced the military to declare a red alert status in Sulu for fear the MNLF and Abu Sayyaf may launch a surprise attack on government targets.
Misuari signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 ending decades of bloody war. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region. But despite the peace accord, there was a widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted.
Under the peace agreement, Manila would have to provide a mini-Marshal Plan to spur economic development in Muslim areas in the south and livelihood and housing assistance to tens of thousands of former rebels to uplift their poor living standards.
In 2001, Misuari’s loyal forces and former MNLF rebels who joined the Philippine Army following the September 1996 peace deal with Manila, attacked a key military base in Jolo town and civilian targets in Zamboanga City in an effort to stop the government from calling an election in the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao where Misuari was then the governor.
Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he had been arrested and deported to the Philippines and was eventually pardoned and released by President Gloria Arroyo in exchange for MNLF support to her election bid as well as her allies in the Senate and Congress in 2004.
But Misuari was also ousted by his Foreign Affairs chief Parouk Hussin, who along with Muslimin Sema, a senior leader; and other senior leaders, made up the so-called Council of 15.
Sema’s group previously appointed Misuari as chairman emeritus, but he rejected the position. Sema had criticized Misuari for dragging the MNLF into disarray. The Council of 15 also accused Misuari of being incompetent as governor of the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.
Misuari’s fall had severely affected the MNLF which is now heavily divided and rift among its leaders is becoming more apparent. Misuari also ran thrice for governor in Sulu province even while under detention, but lost miserably.