Malaysian national held for alleged link to MNLF attack on Zamboanga

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Philippine Army soldiers fire a 60mm mortar towards the position of MNLF loyal to Misuari where they camp out with their hostages in Barangay Sta. Barbara in Zamboanga City. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/EDWIN BACASMAS

MANILA, Philippines–A Malaysian national was arrested last month by Philippine authorities in Zamboanga City for suspected involvement  with the Moro National Liberation Front, Malaysia and Philippine authorities confirmed.

“The arrest of the Malaysian man followed the action taken by the Philippine security forces against individuals suspected of being involved in the armed attacks launched by MNLF rebels in Zamboanga City on Sept 9,” the Malaysian state news agency Bernama reported, on Wednesday quoting Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) director-general, Datuk Mohammad Mantek.

The Bernama report said Mantek refused to give further details as the matter is still under investigation by Philippines authorities.

Mantek also declined to comment if the arrested 55-year-old man was involved with the three-week Zamboanga siege last September which killed at least 200 people.

In the gunbattle that lasted for almost a month, MNLF forces attacked the city to build their independent “Bangsamoro Republik”.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Wisma Putra said he was told by Philippine authorities that the man admitted he was a member of the MNLF, a separate report from Bernama said.

Zamboanga Peninsula police information officer Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca confirmed to INQUIRER.net on Saturday that they arrested a Malaysian national last month during the house raid of MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari by government forces.

“He was arrested because he was near our area of operation. The area was cordoned and he was with an MNLF member,” he said.

He clarified, however, that the Malaysian national was only across the house of Misuari when he was arrested.

Huesca said they already turned over the Malaysian national to the Bureau of Immigration, which is the lead agency investigating the matter.

The Zamboanga siege prompted Malaysia to tighten its security along eastern Sabah’s territorial waters to prevent the rebels from entering the state due to Sabah’s close proximity to Mindanao.

“So far, no security threats to Sabah have been detected but we are intensifying security measures along eastern Sabah’s border waters nevertheless,” Mohammad told Bernama.

He said Malaysian security forces would collaborate with their Philippine counterparts if the need arose.

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