MNLF chief denies hand in Sulu siege

KUALA LUMPUR, March 5 — Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chief Nur Misuari today denied any involvement in the armed standoff led by Sulu militants in Sabah, dismissing reports that members of the separatist group have joined the battle for the east Malaysian state.

According to reports in the Philippine media, Misuari told a press conference at the residence of the self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III this afternoon that it was “madness” to assume he had a hand in the matter.

“For anyone to speculate that I had anything to do with (Sabah standoff) is a kind of madness,” he was reported as saying, according to a Twitter posting by Philippines media network ABS-CBN.

Misuari (picture) also denies financing Kiram’s group in Sabah. “That’s not my way of doing things,” the network quoted him as saying, using the handle @ANCALERTS.

A short while earlier, Malaysia’s Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said there was no evidence that the Malaysia-trained MNLF fighters were joining their fellow Filipino Muslim militants in the fight to reclaim Sabah.

“We have to distinguish between Sulu terrorists and the Sulu people in Sabah,” Ahmad Zahid told a press conference here.

“We are focusing only on Sulu terrorists. I hope that our Sulu friends in Sabah will be with the government. We as a government have been taking care of them,” he added.

The Manila Bulletin today reported Hadji Acmad Bayam, a former chief propagandist of the separatist group, as saying that the MNLF had hidden an arsenal deep in Sabah’s rugged terrain before they returned home after their rigid training, adding he was confident the authorities would not be able to find the firearms.

Acmad was reported to have stayed in Sabah for nearly a decade, from 1976 to 1986, before yielding to then Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos.

The former militant leader told the Philippine paper that many of the seasoned rebel commanders and rank-and-file members had chosen to stay back in Sabah. 

Most of them were from Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and the Zamboanga peninsula on the Philippines south, he said, adding that the MNLF men also included those from Maguindanao, Irano and Maranao.

Acmad related that one of the senior-ranking Malaysia-trained commanders had contacted him a few days ago, saying he was enlisting Tausug warriors and others to back the followers of Agbimuddin Kiram, the self-styled crown prince and heir to the Sulu sultanate that claims ownership to Sabah based on colonial documents.

“I was trying to contact him yesterday but his phone cannot be reached anymore. 

“I guess he was able to penetrate the Malaysian and Philippine sea-borne blockades in their respective borders,” Acmad was quoted saying.

Last Sunday, Abraham Idjirani, spokesman of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, said 40 people from Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Zamboanga Peninsula claimed to have breached the blockades mounted by Malaysia’s security forces.

The Malaysian army launched an attack on the Filipino intruders at Kampung Tanduo, Felda Sahabat in Lahad Datu at 7am today, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak confirmed in a statement today.



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