Moro Islamic Liberation Front
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is a Muslim separatist rebel group located in the southern Philippines. The area where the group is active is called Bangsamoro by the MILF and it covers the southern portion of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago, Palawan, Basilan and the neighboring islands. There are approximately 4.5 million Muslims in the Philippines and the majority live within this area.
The MILF was founded by Salamat Hashim, who advocated a conservative, Wahhabist-influenced brand of Islam developed during his time as a student in Saudi Arabia and Cairo. Salamat, like many in the MILF, adapted the words of Qutb to call for "jihad in the Moroland" against "the colonial Philippine occupation armies" who he accused of crimes against Muslims in the region. Salamat died in July 2003, and was replaced as Chairman of the MILF by Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.
The exact size of the MILF is unclear, though its military wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, is known to consist of a guerrilla army of 12,500 people. The group claimed a peak strength of almost 90,000 "well-armed" men in 1998.
Resistance to the Philippine government was first centered around the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), formed in the late 1960s following the Jabidah Massacre. The group demanded the formation of an independent Moro Islamic state and took part in terrorist attacks and assassinations to promote their ideas. The central government rejected this demand and sent troops into Moroland to maintain order. The MILF was formed in 1981 when Salamat Hashim and his followers split from the MNLF, due to the MNLF's reluctance to launch an insurgency against the Philippine government forces and movements towards a peace agreement.
In January 1987, the MNLF accepted the government's offer of semi-autonomy. The MILF refused to accept the offer. The MILF became the largest separatist group in the Philippines. A general cessation of hostilities was signed in July 1997 but this agreement was broken in 2000 by the government of Joseph Estrada. The MILF initially declared a jihad but became more receptive, especially following claims it is linked to the Abu Sayyaf and Al-Qaeda. A cease-fire accord was signed with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Despite peace negotiations that had appeared to be fruitful and a two year cease-fire, in January 2005 MILF operatives attacked government troops in Maguindanao resulting in at least twenty-three deaths. Led by Andul Rahman Binago, one hundred MILF rebels surrounded the soldiers and were believed to have executed several wounded. The combined troops of MILF, Abu Sofia and Abu Sayyaf were involved in days of fighting which necessitated government troops using 105 mm howitzers to attack the rebel forces. Thousands of civilians in Maguindanao were forced to leave their homes to avoid danger.
The MILF denied authorizing the attack, and said they were trying to communicate with Binago. A spokesman explained that a relative of Binago had recently been killed by government troops and speculated this might have motivated his activities. The incident, along with a 2003 bombing at Davao Airport which the Philippine government blamed on rogue MILF elements, raised speculation that the peace negotiations might be ineffectual in bringing peace to Mindanao if the MILF was unable to control its own operatives. The MILF denies ties with terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, although Jemaah Islamiyah is believed to have provided them with training facilities in areas they control. The MILF also continues to deny connections with Al-Qaeda, though it has admitted to sending around 600 volunteers to Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, and that Osama Bin Laden sent money to the Moro region, though the group denies directly receiving any of the money.
A new round of fighting occurred from June 28 to July 6, 2006, between the MILF and armed civilian volunteers ("CVOs") under Maguindanao Province Governor Andal Ampatuan, backed by Philippine Army troops. The fighting began after Governor Ampatuan blamed the MILF for a June 23 bomb attack on his motorcade, which killed five in his entourage. The MILF denied responsibility, but Ampatuan sent police and CVOs to arrest MILF personnel allegedly connected to the attack. Four thousand families were reported displaced by the fighting that followed, which was ended by a cease-fire agreement signed July 10-11.
Right to Self-Determination
In March of 2007 the government offered to recognize the right of Self-Determination to the Muslims in the south, which has never done in over three decades of conflict and intermittent negotiations.
- Moro people
- Islam in the Philippines
- Moro National Liberation Front
- Moro Rebellion
- Abu Sayyaf
- FAS.org: Moro Islamic Liberation Front
- Amir Butler: The Moro Struggle for Independence
- The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Security in Southeast Asia U.S. Institute of Peace, June 2005
- Moro Muslims engage US-Army: battles of Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak - History; Article.