Pursuit Operations in Sulu Trigger AFP-MNLF Clash

On Aug. 8, MNLF men attacked government troops in Brgy. Lanut Balanjah, Maimbung in retaliation for the previous day’s attack by soldiers. The AFP claimed 10 of its men were killed in the Maimbung encounter, while Hassan said their men were able to kill 13 soldiers in the same encounter.

A separate encounter occurred in Brgy. Carawan, Indanan – in which 15-30 soldiers were reportedly killed.

April 2007

The AFP-MNLF encounters of Aug. 7-8 are not the first to take place this year.

Last Feb. 17, MNLF state chairman Khaid Ajibun sent two grandsons of his on an errand to the market in Indanan, Sulu. Upon their return, soldiers fired at them. One of the children was killed.

Eight days later, Scout Rangers bombarded the MNLF headquarters in Indanan, where Ajibun is based.

In early April, Scout Rangers massacred a family of 10 in Brgy. Timpuok, Patikul, Sulu. Only one of the family’s members managed to survive.

At around 6 a.m. on April 14, MNLF forces led by Malik attacked the detachment of the 11th Marine Battalion Landing Team in Tayungan, Panamao, Sulu. The assault left two soldiers dead and eight others wounded.

Before the series of massacres that provoked the latest wave of clashes, Malik and his men had “detained” a group led by Muslim convert Marine Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino in Jolo, Sulu. That was on Feb. 2-4.

Dolorfino, who also uses the name Ben Muhammad, went with Undersecretary for Peace Ramon Santos and 13 others to the MNLF’s Camp Jabal Ubod in Panamao, Sulu in the morning of Feb. 2 to talk with MNLF representatives headed by Malik. The group included two colonels, a junior officer, nine enlisted men, and several members of Santos’ staff.

The talks were to tackle the holding of a tripartite meeting, proposed late last year by the MNLF, with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Organization of Islamic Conference.

In the afternoon of that same day, Dolorfino and his group were prevented from leaving the camp.

The proposed tripartite meeting was to tackle issues related to the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the GRP and the MNLF.

Deep-rooted strife

The MNLF traces its origins to a massacre of between 28 and 64 Moro fighters recruited by the government in 1968 for a scheme to occupy Sabah, an island near Mindanao to which the Philippines has a historic claim.

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