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MNLF Commander Habier Malik 'moving from house to house' – AFP official

September 18, 2013 10:34am

Moro National Liberation Front Commander Habier Malik remains in Zamboanga City and is "moving from house to house," a military official said Wednesday. 

“We believe that Commander Malik is still here [Zamboanga City] and that now they are currently moving from house to house,” military information chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala told GMA News TV's News to Go in an interview.

But Zagala refused to disclose the exact location of Malik, even as he assured the public that the military is fully committed to finding the elusive MNLF leader.
 
Government security forces have been engaging MNLF fighters since September 9 when the rebel group tried to hoist their flag at the Zamboanga City Hall. As of early Wednesday, the Philippine National Police said 80 percent of the six villages occupied by the MNLF gunmen have been reclaimed by government forces. 

At present, the military is conducting clearing operations in Zamboanga City while they are tracking Malik.
 
Still, Zagala maintained that even though they are now undertaking clearing operations, this doesn't mean there is no more threat from the MNLF.
 
“Well from the start of our operations, from containment to constriction to gradual constriction, we are now slowly moving to clearing. So hindi pa po tapos ang ating mga operasyon at patuloy po ang ating pag-clear nitong mga areas of interest natin,” he said in the same television interview.
 
Zagala added that it's imperative to finish clearing operations to engage Malik's group soonest.
 
As part of the clearing operations, the military on Tuesday captured the KGK Building along R. Lustre Street in Barangay Catalina, which is believed to be the command post of Malik.

“'Yung KGK Building po ay hawak na po natin. Cleared na po natin 'yan,” Zagala said.



No reinforcements?
 
Meanwhile, Zagala clarified earlier reports that the MNLF fighters encountered by government forces in Barangay Mampang were reinforcements for the armed group.

“Itong mga na-encounter natin sa Mampang, these are the forces that fled. Nanggaling 'yan dito sa Sta Catalina, Sta Barbara area,” Zagala said, adding: “So hindi po 'yan reinforcement, liliwanagin ko lang. Sila po ay tumatakas na umabot hanggang Mampang.”

It was earlier reported that MNLF reinforcements were the ones who abducted Senior Superintendent Jose Chiquito Malayo in Barangay Mampang. He was released hours later.

Malayo has since denied that he was abducted, saying he had walked into the MNLF lines in order to ask them to release the hostages and for them to stop fighting.
 
The Zamboanga crisis is now on its tenth day with at least 90 people killed. Figures from the military show that of those killed, 72 were MNLF gunmen, eight soldiers, three policemen and seven civilians. 

A total of 150 hostages have either been rescued by authorities or released by the MNLF gunmen. Four other hostages have escaped from custody. — with Andrei Medina/RSJ, GMA News
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