Rebellion raps filed vs MNLF rebels over Zambo crisis-A A +A
Sunday, September 22, 2013
MANILA (Updated) -- Police have filed rebellion and criminal complaints against the first group of more than 200 Moro rebels who occupied coastal communities in Zamboanga City and took residents hostage in a two-week siege that thousands of troops are still trying to quell, prosecutors said Sunday.
The first 29 Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels to face complaints include Habier Malik and three other commanders who remained at large and were reportedly still locked in a deadly standoff with troops in Zamboanga City's coastal outskirts, senior prosecutor Aristotle Reyes said.
The other 25 to have complaints filed against them have been captured or have surrendered.
Complaints against other Moro rebels, including MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari, will be filed next for allegedly taking part in a rebellion and occupying communities and holding residents hostage in violation of a Philippine law that upholds international humanitarian conventions, officials said.
President Benigno Aquino III confirmed this on Sunday, saying the Department of Justice is readying the charges against Misuari.
Aquino’s pronouncement came even after Misuari denied and disowned the acts Malik, his trusted aide, who led the hundreds of rebels in infiltrating Zamboanga City.
The Chief Executive said the government has witnesses who could testify that Misuari has a hand in the standoff that started last September 9.
Also, there’s "smoking gun" evidence against many of the rebels, Reyes said by telephone.
"Many of them were captured during gunbattles," he said.
More than 200 MNLF rebels, who had arrived by boat from outlying islands, attempted to occupy Zamboanga but were repulsed by troops on September 9. They then stormed five coastal communities and took about 200 residents hostage as human shields after government forces surrounded them, the military said.
When attempts to convince the rebels to surrender and give up their hostages failed, President Aquino flew Friday to Zamboanga City to oversee a ground, sea and air offensive by 4,500 soldiers and police.
At least 102 rebels had been killed, while 117 others have been captured or surrendered.
About 40 rebels holding around 20 hostages continue to fight troops in two communities, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala said, adding that troops have used limited firepower to protect civilians.
Aquino flew back to Manila on Sunday to help oversee aid to a typhoon-hit northern province and deal with other issues.
While troops continued battle the last pockets of rebel holdouts in close-range fighting, Aquino said officials have begun discussing how to rebuild communities devastated by the fighting, which displaced more than 100,000 people.
The rebel faction involved in the fighting dropped its demand for a separate Muslim state and signed an autonomy deal with the government in 1996, but the guerrillas did not lay down their arms and later accused the government of reneging on a promise to develop long-neglected Muslim regions.
Misuari's group splintered into factions and faded into the background while a bigger rival group entered into talks with the government on enlarging an autonomous Muslim region in the south. As the talks brokered by Malaysia progressed, Misuari and his group felt left out and grew restive.
Misuari has not been seen since the rebel siege began, but Aquino III has said there was growing evidence of his involvement. (AP/With Bong Garcia/Sunnex)