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Malaysia Arrests Philippine Governor

November 25, 2001|From Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Police arrested a renegade Philippine governor and six supporters when they tried to slip into the country by boat early Saturday, Malaysia's police chief said.

Nur Misuari, governor of the southern Muslim region in the Philippines, and his supporters will be turned over to the Philippine government "as soon as possible," the Malaysian news agency Bernama quoted Police Chief Norian Mai as saying.

Malaysia has ruled out granting asylum to Misuari, a former rebel leader whose supporters attacked government troops in the southern Philippines last week, breaking a five-year peace.

"He cannot be running to Malaysia to seek refuge from an internal conflict he got himself into with the Philippine government," Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said.

Norian said Misuari was arrested on Jampiras, Malaysia's closest island to Philippine territorial waters.

Misuari traveled from Jolo, a war-torn island in the southern Philippines where his supporters reportedly have teamed up with Islamic extremists from the Abu Sayyaf group to fight Philippine troops.

Forces loyal to Misuari attacked a Philippine army base Monday, killing four soldiers and seven civilians. About 100 rebels have been killed in fighting since then, the Philippine military has said.

Misuari abandoned a 1996 peace deal that Malaysia had helped broker. The Philippine government has accused him of trying to upset regional elections that were held Monday to choose his successor and has charged him with rebellion.

The 1996 peace agreement with Misuari's Moro National Liberation Front was a historic step toward ending a revolt by Muslim separatists in the largely Roman Catholic Philippines. A smaller group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, signed a cease-fire this year.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo praised the arrest, which came a day after she asked Malaysia and Indonesia for help catching Misuari.

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