Philippines : 4 Abu Sayyaf Die in Clash with Moro Fighters

Zamboanga City, Philippines, 06 Dzulqa’dah 1437/09 August 2016  (MINA)  – Four Daesh-linked militants died after a firefight with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters early Tuesday morning in the Philippines’ southern province of Sulu,  Anadolu reported.

A military spokesman said the encounter happened in Jolo Island amid ongoing negotiations between the Abu Sayyaf and the one-time rebel group for the release of hostages.

An MNLF faction — led by Nur Misuari — has been credited with assisting in the release of 14 Indonesians being held by the group earlier this year.

Major Felimon Tan, spokesman for the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said in a statement that the group of Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Alhabsy Misaya fought with MNLF fighters in Kalingalang Caluang town where some hostages are being kept.

The remains of the four dead men were brought to the village of Punjungan for their families to claim.

President Rodrigo Duterte is set to meet with Misuari on Aug. 12, during his second visit to Basilan province since he took over the presidency, according to a report Friday.

Duterte last visited the area July 21 to be briefed on the army’s ongoing battle with the Abu Sayyaf in the area.

The Manila Standard quoted Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo — due to accompany Duterte — as saying the president would speak to Misuari who is currently a fugitive, after eluding charges filed against him and his men for a siege on the predominantly Christian city of Zamboanga in 2013 in which around 300 people were killed and thousands of houses razed.

The president has repeatedly said he is hoping to discuss building a framework for the Bangsamoro peace process with Misuari — discussions that will also include the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The MILF is currently involved in the ongoing peace process with the government, however a faction under Misuari considers the 2014 deal a betrayal of a 1996 Organisation of Islamic Cooperation-brokered agreement between the MNLF and the government.

Misuari — who launched the siege on Zamboanga to protest the new MILF deal — is reported to be hiding in Jolo Island where he is mingling with people loyal to him.

Duterte has repeatedly stressed he is willing to give Misuari a safe-conduct pass to kickstart talks between the government and his faction.

Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf — armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles — has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent Islamic province in the Philippines.

It is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release. (T/R07/R01)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)