OIC request for return of MNLF camps junked
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MANILA (AFP) – The Philippine government has rejected an Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) request to hand back two captured training camps to Muslim rebels, an official said Tuesday.
Foreign under secretary Rafael Seguis said the request was made by Egyptian diplomat Sayyed Kassen El-Masry during the 34th OIC foreign ministers’ conference in Islamabad recently. The camps, occupied by forces of Habier Malik, a commander of the Muslim Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the southern island of Jolo, were captured by military forces in April after Malik’s forces shelled a Marine base, killing three people.
The fighting marred a truce in place between the government and the MNLF as part of a peace accord signed in 1996, ending a decades-old separatist campaign in return for limited Muslim self-rule. Seguis told reporters that the Egyptian diplomat’s suggestion was dismissed, adding that April’s military operation did not breach the peace accord since only Malik and his supporters had taken up arms against the government.
“This is a law enforcement matter,” Seguis said.
“Malik is a fugitive from justice. He attacked a military camp. Right now, the military is in the process of developing the (captured) camps,” Seguis added.
The 57-nation OIC still recognises the MNLF as the sole representative of the Philippines’ Muslim minority.
The OIC is also monitoring the government’s peace negotiations with another Muslim faction, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.