AFP: Soldiers closing in on MNLF's Malik
ZAMBOANGA – Only walls separated the ABS-CBN News team from troops and Nur Misuari's forces who again clashed Thursday morning.
Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) commander Habier Malik is suspected to be in the area, moving back and forth from barangays Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas confirmed that Malik is still alive.
“Humigit kumulang mga 170 na, either captured, surrendered or napatay. Wala siya doon sa 170 na ‘yun,” said Roxas.
He added that Malik currently has around 50 to 70 fighters and 21 hostages with him.
One freed hostage said Malik led the group that held them captive.
"Sa kanya [ako] nakiusap, gwapo siya, maputi tapos hindi masyado mataba,” she said.
Out of all the MNLF commanders, Malik is said to be closest to Misuari.
He also previously headed the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Reunification Council and supposedly has a reputation for being a “bad seed” as he often declared war against government.
The military believes soldiers are getting closer to Malik's exact location.
"Dito sa 30% na area ito, danger zone pa ito. We discourage civilians na mag-attempt pumunta dito,” said Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, Armed Forces of the Philippines public affairs chief.
Authorities have posted Malik's photos at police stations.
They are also reminding evacuees from Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina not to return to their homes yet since MNLF snipers are still around.