2 MILF members blamed for deadly ambush surrender in southern Philippines

Roel Pareño
Zamboanga, Philippines
2 MILF members blamed for deadly ambush surrender in southern Philippines Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels stand guard at an entrance to Camp Darapanan Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, a town in Maguindanao, Philippines, ahead of a weapons decommissioning ceremony, Sept. 7, 2019.
Ferdinandh Cabrera/AFP

Two rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front members suspected of taking part in an attack that killed a soldier and a police officer in the southern Philippines last weekend have surrendered and will be charged with murder, military officials said Thursday.

The suspects were among 10 MILF gunmen who ambushed a government security team on Aug. 12 as it escorted regional peace monitors in Ulitan, a barangay on Basilan island, said Brig. Gen. Alvin Luzon, commander of Joint Task Force Basilan and the 101st Brigade.

The two were “primarily responsible (among the) perpetrators in the recent ambush,” Luzon told reporters here. 

He said the suspects surrendered on Tuesday and had provided the military with vital information used by government troops to hunt down the others involved in the attack that left seven other troops injured.

Basilan is one of several provinces in the southern Mindanao region that make up the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). In a 2014 peace agreement with Manila, the MILF gave up its long-running separatist insurgency in exchange for autonomous rule over predominantly Muslim areas in Mindanao. 

Under the deal’s terms, the group promised to have its tens of thousands of members turn over and decommission their weapons, but the MILF has struggled to meet that target. In various phases so far, it has decommissioned about 4,500 weapons of 40,000 believed to be in the hands of the members of the former guerrilla force, according to Department of National Defense estimates. 

In Sunday’s attack, the gunmen ambushed a security convoy guarding a Joint Peace and Security Team tasked with overseeing the decommissioning and disarming of former MILF combatants. The team – whose members are military, police, MILF and local officials – assists in monitoring and enforcing the peace pact.

On Thursday, Luzon pointed to the 2014 peace agreement as being instrumental, in close coordination with its leaders, for the “peaceful and voluntary surrender of the two rebel suspects.”

He identified the suspects as Adzmin Manjapal, 20, and Mudzni Sapau, 27, saying they were both rogue members of the MILF.

The suspects were turned over to the Basilan police chief Col. Carlos Madronio to be charged with murder, Luzon said, while vowing to provide justice for those killed and seven injured in the ambush. 

Luzon credited MILF leaders with facilitating the surrender, naming Malik Cadil, officer-in-charge of Western Mindanao Front MILF; and Hadji Sammad Ahaddin, member of the MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostility. Abdurahman Rajan, deputy commander of MILF 114th Base Command, also played a role.

The military commander had previously said that the MILF’s leaders do not have control over people not identified as their members. 

The MILF leaders did not immediately respond to BenarNews requests for comment.

During a decommissioning ceremony for 1,300 ex-combatants earlier this month, Murad Ebrahim, who heads the BARMM, blamed militant groups with endangering efforts to disarm former MILF guerrillas.

Under the decommissioning process, each former combatant who hands over weapons is expected to receive about U.S. $2,400 per weapon, including funds for education.  

“We are facing a very challenging situation because there are still groups out there that encourage our members to join them,” Murad said at the time.

The surrender came amid an intense military-police manhunt for the suspects who were believed to be linked to a MILF faction led by Huram Malangka. The faction was alleged to be involved in killings including acting as guns for hire for criminal gangs.

“Under the administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., such attacks will not go unpunished. Justice will be served,” Philippine presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez said on Thursday.

“The blatant disregard for human life and hostilities against our peace builders is an affront and an act of contempt against the tenets of peacebuilding, human dignity and respect to the rule of law.” 


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