Military claims 81 MNLF fighters killed, Malik not among them

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/17 September)—Eighty-one fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) were killed in the nine-day armed conflict here, Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), claimed Tuesday.

In a press briefing, Zagala said 30 more MNLF members were reported killed in the past 24 hours in addition to the 51 body counts reported in the past eight days.

However, MNLF commander Ustadz Habier Malik was not among the 81, according to him.

“We have also rescued a total of 123 hostages,” Zagala said.

He said that government troops have gradually constricted the movements of MNLF fighters loyal to founding chair Nur Misuari.

Armed MNLF members laid siege to some coastal barangays in Zambonga Monday last week.

At least 82,000 individuals have been displaced due to the clashes between government troops and MNLF members, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said earlier Tuesday.

Conflicting MNLF fatality figure

In its report posted at 6:32 p.m. Tuesday, the NDRRMC reported that the clashes have killed a total of 88 persons, including seven from the military, three from the police and seven civilians.

The council said that, as validated with the AFP and the Office of the Civil Defense-Region IX, 71 MNLF fighters have been killed, 10 less than what Zagala had claimed.

In the wake of the rescue operations in the past 24 hours, three soldiers were killed and 10 others were wounded, Zagala said.

Zagala attributed the rescue of the hostages to the continued pressure by government troops against the MNLF members.

“Right now, we are still conducting operations, and we continue to constrict the movement of the MNLF [fighters],” he said.

The joint military and police forces conducted operations in the coastal village of Mampang Tuesday morning.

Interior and Local Government Sec. Mar Roxas, who met with rescued hostages and visited debriefing centers Tuesday, said that military operations against the MNLF members will continue until peace and order are restored in the city. (Frencie Carreon/MindaNews)