MANILA (UPDATE) – Government troops raided the house of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari on Friday, a police official said.
In an interview with dzMM, Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, spokesperson of Zamboanga Peninsula Police, said troops went to the house of Misuari in Barangay San Roque to serve a search warrant.
Huesca said the local court issued the search warrant after the police were able to present two witnesses who supported allegations that pieces of evidence connected to the three-week siege in Zamboanga City can be found in Misuari's house.
An armored personnel carrier approached the house of Misuari at around 4 a.m. Soldiers and police surrounded the house and bombed its gate.
Huesca said no one was inside the house when the troops entered it.
The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group earlier filed rebellion charges against Misuari and his followers in connection with the Zamboanga City siege.
Misuari's followers fought street battles with police and troops in the city last month in which more than 200 people died, said Senior Superintendent Edgar Danao, chief of the regional CIDG.
"We have gathered affidavits linking Misuari to the said attack," Danao told reporters Thursday, a day after the complaint was filed with the state prosecutor's office.
Misuari is accused of sending his armed MNLF followers to Zamboanga on September 9 to try to block a proposed peace deal between the government and a rival Muslim rebel group.
The incursion sparked three weeks of street battles with elite military forces that forced more than 100,000 people to flee their homes.
The government accused the gunmen of taking civilian hostages and setting fire to more than 10,000 homes.
It declared the rebel action crushed on Saturday with the release of the last of 195 hostages.
Apart from at least 189 guerrillas killed, the campaign also left at least 23 soldiers and police and 12 civilians dead.
Misuari, 71, is believed by police to have gone into hiding.
Police have so far filed complaints for rebellion and other criminal cases against 224 MNLF leaders and followers, most of them now detained, Huesca said.
State prosecutors will evaluate the evidence submitted by police, then decide whether to bring charges in court. Rebellion is punishable by life imprisonment.
Muslim rebels have been fighting since the 1970s for an independent or autonomous homeland in the south of the mainly Catholic Philippines. An estimated 150,000 people have died in the conflict.
The MNLF signed a peace treaty in 1996 that granted limited self-rule to the south's Muslim minority.
However, the group opposes a planned final peace deal between the government and the remaining major Muslim rebel group, the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Misuari apparently fears the proposed peace deal would sideline him and his group. – with reports from RJ Rosalado, ABS-CBN News Zamboanga; Agence France-Presse