Misuari wants halt in anti-sayyaf ops
PHILIPPINES Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana said a former rebel chieftain tain – – wanted wanted by by authorities authorities for for the the 2013 2013 deadly deadly attacks attacks in in Zamboanga Zamboanga City – is asking for a halt in military offensives against the Abu Sayyaf in the southern Sulu province to allow peaceful negotiations for the safe release of a dozen hostages still in the hands of the notorious group tied to Islamic Islamic State. State.
He said Nur Misuari, chieftain of the Moro National Liberation Front, relayed this message for him through Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza.
Lorenzana said he will not allow a total halt in the operations against the Abu Sayyaf, but he would let local military commanders to decide on a localize truce to pave the way for peaceful negotiations by Misuari to the Abu Sayyaf.
He said among the hostages are Malaysians tugboat crew members kidnapped in Sabah, Malaysia this year.
The Abu Sayyaf recently freed Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and three Indonesian tugboat crew members Teo Kopong, Lorenz Koten and Emmanuel in Sulu following negotiations by Misuari. Army reports said some P30 million were paid to the Abu Sayyaf and P30 million more for the Indonesian hostages to buy out their liberty.
Abu Sayyaf militants also released a Filipino couple, Levy Gonzales – a telecommunication technician working for Power City Corporation – and his pregnant wife Daniela Taruc in the village called Tiptipon in Panglima Sugala town in Sulu, one of 5 provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The couple was spotted late Sunday by a civilian walking in the village and immediately informed authorities upon learning they were freed by the Abu Sayyaf. They were later brought to an army base in Jolo town where Western Mindanao Command officials were quick to say that the release was the result of the on-going military operations against the Abu Sayyaf, the same claims they made following the release of the Norwegian and Indonesian hostages.
It was unknown whether Gonzales’ company or their family paid ransoms to the Abu Sayyaf in exchange for their freedom. The duo was kidnapped in August 6 along with their driver Shariff Julhasan Abirin in Timpook village in Patikul town. There was no information on the fate of Abirin or whether he had been freed or not. The Abu Sayyaf previously demanded P1 million for the safe release of the hostages.
Security forces are also operating against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan province where troops captured a stronghold of the militant group in the village of Baguindan in Tipo-tipo town.
Governor Mujiv Hataman, of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, led the government and military officials in the handover of the Abu Sayyaf camp to civilian authorities and spearheaded a humanitarian and medical mission in the area.
Hataman was also quoted by a television report as saying that foreign members of the Islamic State are being coddled by the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan. He said the foreign jihadists, including a Malaysian and Jamaican bomb experts, were training the Abu Sayyaf in the manufacture of improvised explosives.
Speaking to hundreds of residents, Hataman – accompanied by his wife, Representative Djalia Turabin and his deputy governor, Haroun Lucman – called on civilians to support the government’s peace efforts and called for unity in achieving long lasting peace.
“It’s about time for this place –Baguindan – to receive various programs and projects from the government. Ang Baguindan ay para sa Baguindan. Nandito kami para protektahan ang mga tao dito,” he said.
The town’s mayor, Arcam Istarul, also pledged his support to the military and thanked the soldiers for liberating the village from the Abu Sayyaf. He said more than 1500 families in the area benefited from the humanitarian mission.
MNLF chieftan Nur Misuari and Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza in Sulu province in this photo from the official’s Facebook page.