A SPOKESMAN for the Moro National Liberation Front linked Tuesday’s shooting and wounding of a popular Saudi cleric and a Saudi Embassy official at a religious symposium at the Mindanao State University to the sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiite Muslims.
“The attack could have been driven by the strong statement of Al-Qarni on matters affecting the Sunni and Shiite squabble in the Middle East,” said Absalom Cerveza, MNLF spokesman, who quoted a credible source present during the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines.
Cerveza said the shooter was a Shiite, a branch of Islam that accounts for five percent or about 350,000 Moros.
Qarni suffered gunshot wounds in the shoulder, left arm and abdomen while Sheikh Turki Assaegh had bullet wounds in the thigh and leg when a gunman, identified as Misuari Kiliste Rugasanand, 21, an engineering student at MSU, opened fire on them. Lawmen shot and killed the gunman.
Cerveza said Qarni’s lecture centered on the complex environment between the two warring religious factions—the Sunnis and the Shiites—in the Middle East.
The latest conflict between the two sides was sparked by Saudi Arabia’s execution of a Shia religious leader, Nimr al-Nimr. In retaliation, Shiites burned the Saudi Embassy in Tehran.
Cerveza said Qarni was on a hit list of a still unknown group and said Tuesday’s attack was premeditated.
“They [the attackers] were just waiting for an opportune time and that was a good time. He was listed to be liquidated,” Cerveza said.
Reports of Tuesday’s attack spread throughout Zamboanga City and other parts of Mindanao and was the focus of discussion among the Muslim population.
The Ulamas expressed dismay that the country was being dragged into to Middle East sectarian conflict.
“They are getting worried about the situation in the Muslim world,” Cerveza said.
Reports said two people from Basilan who were with the gunman were arrested after the shooting.
Philippine National Police spokesman Chief Supt. Wilbern Mayor said they are still investigating the motive behind Qarni’s shooting.
In a statement, the Foreign Affairs Department condemned the attack on Qarni and the Saudi attaché.
“The Philippine government condemns all forms of violence, especially as they occur in schools, which are considered zones of peace,” the statement said.
“We pray for the speedy recovery of Dr. Al-Qarni and Sheikh Assaegh.”
The government, it said, continues to monitor the situation closely and trust that local authorities in Zamboanga City will conduct a thorough investigation on the attack. With Vito Barcelo
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