Cover image via Vice

A Muslim rebel leader from the Philippines today claimed that Malaysia had hired the Moro people to carry out kidnappings in Sabah’s Sipadan, in a speech delivered at the nation’s presidential palace.

Nur Misuari, who heads the separatist militant group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), accused Malaysia of being involved in the kidnappings and said he may haul them to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“Malaysia is involved in this kidnapping for ransom. Probably one day, I will drag their leaders to the ICC. I have all the evidence in my hands,” he was quoted as saying by the Philippines’ news portal Rappler, but did not disclose said evidence.

“They are hiring my own people. Even Sipadan, they hired my cadre officers. They offered them millions,” he added.

According to Rappler, Misuari had singled out the Sipadan kidnappings in 2000, where 21 hostages — involving 10 Malaysians, two Filipinos and nine from other countries — were abducted by Filipino militant group Abu Sayyaf for ransom.

In July 2014, Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Nur Misuari was using men from his own MNLF group and other groups to intrude into and carry out kidnappings in Sabah, in a bid to raise funds to revive the MNLF’s military arm and reassert its influence in southern Philippines.

Zahid had then said Misuari is believed to be conspiring with individuals said to be part of the Sulu Sultanate, which aims to take over Sabah.

Former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Noor was also reported in July 2014 as saying it was likely Misuari was behind a Sabah island ambush by foreign gunmen in the same month which resulted in the abduction of a Malaysian marine police personnel and the death of another personnel, due to MNLF’s exclusion from the Bangsamoro peace deal.

Misuari reportedly delivered his remarks today from the presidential podium at Philippines’ president Rodrigo Duterte’s official residence Malacañang Palace, after meeting the latter.

Rappler said Misuari was invited by Duterte to the presidential residence amid a court order which temporarily suspended arrest warrants against the rebel leader, who is accused in court of rebellion and crimes against humanity in relation to the September 2013 fatal siege in Zamboanga city in Mindanao, Philippines which resulted in the deaths of over 200 people.

Duterte is reportedly set to make an official visit to Malaysia next Wednesday and Thursday for talks on the piracy problem in the Straits of Malacca.

Peace talks between Misuari’s Muslim rebel group MNLF and the Philippines government had resulted in the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, but this region in the Philippines is expected to be renamed the Bangsamoro region as a result of Malaysia-facilitated peace talks between the Philippines government and the MNLF’s rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

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