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Philippines: AFP Denounces Actions of MNLF Renegade Leader

Apr. 19, 2007

AFP DENOUNCES MALIKS ACTIONS, BITAN-AG COMPLEX OVERRUN BY AFP TROOPS

HEADQUARTERS WESTERN MINDANAO COMMAND. LTGEN EUGENIO V CEDO AFP, the commander of the Western Mindanao Command denounces the series of attacks by renegade MNLF leader Habier Ustadz Malik and his group launched against military troops in Panamao, Sulu including the Municipal building of Panamao which killed 1 civilian and wounding another. The lawless group began their attack in the evening of April 13, Friday and sustaining their attack against the Marine Company in Luuk and the SOCOM in Talipao in the morning of April 14.

In his statement, General Cedo said that this attack is a clear manifestation that the group of Malik does not recognize the other MNLF groups who are cooperating with the government in its campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group. This also proves reports that Maliks group is truly giving refuge to the ASG leaders in his area which are often sighted and encountered near or within the Maliks sanctuary.

The attacks forced AFP troops to deliver counter strikes to defend their position and prevent escalation of enemy attacks to both military and civilians. With this development the COMWESTMINCOM directed the Joint Task Force Comet to conduct a military offensive against the group of Malik and neutralize the MNLF leader. Latest report from the ground states that Camp Jabal Uhod in Bitan-ag Complex, the bastion of Malik has been occupied by government troops. Intermittent fighting are still ongoing but the main group of Malik is on the run and is being pursued by the government troops in the area.

The people of Sulu particularly the populace of Panamao condemns these acts of Malik since even innocent civilians are not spared in their attack. However, the government will continue to open dialogue with the MNLF and urge them to convince its forces to desist aggressive attacks against the government and just assist in the fight against terrorism for the benefit of the whole Sulu province. This will also deter the escalation of violence and prevent civilian casualties since these innocent civilians are the biggest victims of this incident who are forced to abandon their homes. The COMWESTMINCOM also directed troops to help and assist all affected civilians in anyway they could to prevent any additional unwanted casualties. (AFP-PIO)

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