61 MNLF recruits heading to Lanao Sur stopped in Zamboanga
PAGADIAN CITY – Police and military authorities intercepted dozens of Muslims, including four teenagers, recruited by the former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front and heading to Lanao del Sur to train and become soldiers, police said..
At least 27 people, who were recruited from the restive province of Basilan, were held by the police in the village of Guiwan in Zamboanga City after residents tipped off authorities on their presence. They were supposed to travel to the town of Madamba in Lanao del Sur and train at MNLF’S Camp Jabari Nur. They arrived in Zamboanga on a private boat last week.
Police said 34 other recruits were also intercepted by soldiers and policemen at a checkpoint in Ipil town in the neighboring province of Zamboanga Sibugay. They were also heading to the MNLF camp. Most of them were recruited in Basilan, Sulu and Zamboanga City to become members of the Philippine Army after their MNLF training in Lanao del Sur where security forces are battling local ISIS militants.
But the government has no integration program for MNLF members, although some 7,500 former rebels were admitted in the military and police in 1995 after Nur Misuari, the MNLF chairman, signed a peace deal with Manila.
Misuari is also wanted by authorities on rebellion charges after MNLF forces attacked Jolo in 2001 and Zamboanga City twice one in 2001 and in 2013 and some fighters also joined the Abu Sayyaf in pillaging Ipil town in 1995.
It was unknown whether the recruits paid money to become members of the MNLF or whether it was a scam perpetrated by unscrupulous people pretending to be leaders of the former rebel group. The MNLF did not issue any statement in connection to the recruitment of Muslims in Mindanao.