Moro Islamic Liberation Front: Wikis


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Moro Islamic Liberation Front
Dates of operation 1981 (separated from Moro National Liberation Front) - present
Leader Murad Ibrahim
Motives Moro independence
Active region(s) Philippines
Ideology Islamist
Notable attacks 2007 Basilan beheading incident and among others.
A M.I.L.F. soldier trains with an M60 machine gun.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (M.I.L.F.) (Arabic: جبهة تحرير مورو الإسلامية) is an Islamist group located in the southern Philippines.[1] It is one of two Islamic military groups, the other being the Abu Sayyaf, that claim belligerency against the Government of the Philippines, the United States and its supporters for political corruption. These groups are found in Bangsamoro region, an area in Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago, Palawan, Basilan and other neighbouring islands.[2]



The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is a group established by supporters of the Moro National Liberation Front (M.N.L.F.), a rebel organization formed in the 1960s following the Jabidah massacre. The M.N.L.F. established the formation of an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines and took part in terrorist[3][4] attacks and assassinations to achieve their goals. The government in Manila did not recognize this demand and sent troops into the southern Philippines to control the insurgency. The M.I.L.F. was established in 1981 when Salamat Hashim and his followers split from the M.N.L.F., due to the M.N.L.F.'s reluctance to launch an insurgency against the Philippine government and its supporters.[5]

In January 1987, the M.N.L.F. accepted the Philippine government's offer of semi-autonomy of the regions in dispute, subsequently leading to the establishment of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. The M.I.L.F., however, refused to accept this offer and continued their insurgency operations. A general cessation of hostilities between the government in Manila and the M.I.L.F. was signed in July 1997 but this agreement was abolished in 2000 by the Philippine Army under the administration of former Philippine president Joseph Estrada. In response, the M.I.L.F. declared a jihad (holy war) against the government, its citizens and supporters. A cease-fire treaty was signed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.[6]

Despite peace negotiations and cease-fire agreement, the M.I.L.F. attacked government troops in Maguindanao resulting in at least twenty-three deaths in January 2005. The combined armies of the M.I.L.F. and Abu Sayyaf were involved in days of fighting which necessitated government troops using heavy artillery to engage rebel forces.

The bombing incident in Davao airport in 2003 which the Philippine government blamed on M.I.L.F. members,[7] raised speculation that the peace negotiations might be ineffectual in bringing peace to Mindanao if the M.I.L.F. is unable to control its operatives. The M.I.L.F. denies ties with terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, although Jemaah Islamiyah is considered to have provided them with training facilities in areas they control.[8][9] The M.I.L.F. 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 Philippines, though the group denies directly receiving any payment.[10]

From June 28 to July 6, 2006, conflict between the M.I.L.F. and armed civilian volunteers under Maguindanao Province governor Andal Ampatuan who were supported by the Philippine Army had been reported. The fighting began after governor Ampatuan blamed the M.I.L.F. for a June 23 bomb attack on his motorcade, which killed five in his entourage. The M.I.L.F. denied responsibility, but Ampatuan sent police and civilian volunteers to arrest M.I.L.F. members connected to the attack. Four thousand families were reported displaced by the fighting that followed, which was ended by a cease-fire agreement signed on July 10 and July 11.[11]

Recent development

In March 2007, the Philippine government offered to recognize human rights for the Moro people which it had never done in three decades of conflict.[12] However on July 12, 2007, Islamic militants in Basilan in the southern Philippines killed 14 marines, beheading 11 of them, while 9 other marines were wounded and about 4 rebels were killed. The fighting took place as the marines were searching for kidnapped Italian priest, Giancarlo Bossi on June 10, 2007. A M.I.L.F. soldier confirmed that some of its members had been involved in gun battles, despite the M.I.L.F. peace treaty with the Philippine government. Mohagher Iqbal, the chief negotiator for the M.I.L.F., denied that it was responsible for the beheadings and the priest's abduction.[13] On July 19, 2007, despite no ransom being paid for the freedom of Giancarlo Bossi, who was kidnapped on June 10 in Zamboanga Sibugay province. Philippine authorities described his kidnappers as members of the Abu Sayyaf. Government authorities blamed a renegade commander of the M.I.L.F. for Bossi's kidnapping, but it denied any involvement.[14][15]

According to the provincial administrator of Basilan, more than 900 families have been displaced as a result of the deployment of soldiers in Basilan in response to the beheading of 11 soldiers of the Philippine Marines who were killed in an encounter with M.I.L.F. in Al-Barkah town.[16] While the M.I.L.F. owned their responsibility over the death of the 14 soldiers of the Philippine Marines. They describe this as a warning for trespassing in their territory in Basilan. In previous agreements, the two groups have negoticiated about respecting M.I.L.F. camps and presence to avoid conflicts in these areas, an agreement that is prone to violation.[16][16]

On August 4, 2008, the Supreme Court of the Philippines issued a temporary restraining order, preventing the Government and the M.I.L.F. from officially signing the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, which would conclude all dispute and begin formal talks that would lead to the drafting and eventual signing of a Final Complehensive Compact between the two groups.[17] The Court accepted motions by the southern provincial governments that object to the extended boundaries for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao envisioned in the peace deal. The MOA-AD would have allowed the Moro people gained control of the region under the concept of human rights with the right to establish a police force and to control natural resources.[18]

The MOA-AD was initialed by former governor and peace panel chair Rodolfo García and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon and M.I.L.F. peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal on July 27 in Malaysia. It was scheduled for formal signing on August 5, but the Supreme Court issued no negotiation preventing the executive department from signing the agreement.[19] The MOA-AD is the last of several agenda items under the 2001 agreement of the GRP-MILF. after security and relief and rehabilitation, prior to the discussion on the political settlement.[19]

The Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN) appealed to the public not to be afraid of the MOA-AD and to "open your hearts to the Moro grievance."[20] The YMPN said in a statement dated August 21:

"In these times of hardship, we hold hands as one, with our Christian and Islamic neighbours, in the name of peace, acceptance and justice. We are committed to a democratic and peaceful resolution of the conflict. Do not be afraid of the MOA- AD. To the national public, open your hearts to the Moro grievance"


Over the next month, several M.I.L.F. commanders were tagged by government officials as having initiated an offensive campaign. This was responded by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which immediately deployed ten battalions composed of a total of 6,000 soldiers into Mindanao under the command of Lt. Gen. Cardozo Luna.[21] The violence displaced over 600,000 people and left about 300 dead.[22]

On October 14, 2008, the Court, conducted a series of divided votes declared "contrary to law and the Constitution" the MOA-AD of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front Tripoli Agreement of Peace on 2001. The document of Conchita Carpio-Morales ruled: "In sum, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process committed grave abuse of discretion when he failed to carry out the pertinent consultation process. The furtive process by which the MOA-AD was designed and crafted runs contrary to and in excess of the legal authority and amounts to a whimsical, capricious, oppressive, arbitrary and despotic exercise thereof. It illustrates a gross evasion of positive duty and a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined."[23][24][25]

Civil society organizations such as Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society had submitted a Motion for Reconsideration. However, the Supreme Court affirmed its October 14 ruling that declared unconstitutional the initialed MOA-AD between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on November 21, 2008.[19]

M.I.L.F. soldiers offered to help free the Irish priest father Michael Sinott, who was kidnapped in the Philippines on October 14, 2009 and sought permission to deploy about 100 of its soldiers in the area where Sinnott is believed to be held. However it was turned down by the Philippine government.

See also


  1. ^ BBC News Online Article:The Philippines' MILF rebels, Last accessed 23 October 2006
  2. ^ Philippines CIA World Factbook, 2006
  3. ^ Retrieved April 2, 2009 (12.20 GMT)
  4. ^ Retrieved April 2, 2009 (12.21 GMT)
  5. ^ Dangerous dynamics: activists, militants and terrorists in Southeast Asia, Wright-Neville, D. The Pacific Review 17 (1), (2004)
  6. ^ "In the Spotlight: Moro Islamic Liberation Front". Terrorism - Terrorist Network. Retrieved February 15, 2002.  
  7. ^ President: M.I.L.F. has until June 1 to cut terror links, Guinto, J. Philippine - Daily Inquirer, 13 May (2003)
  8. ^ MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base
  9. ^ Terrorism - Terrorist Network - In the Spotlight: Moro Islamic Liberation Front
  10. ^ Tentacles of terror: Al Qaeda’s Southeast Asian network, Abuza, Z. Contemporary Southeast Asia 24(3),(2002)
  11. ^ Buffer zones set up to prevent CVO-MILF clashes in Maguindanao , Carolyn Arguillas,, July 10, 2006
  12. ^ "Breakthrough seen in Manila's talks with Muslim rebels". Reuters. Retrieved March 10, 2007.  
  13. ^ BBC News Online Article: Rebels behead Philippine troops, Last accessed 12 July 2007
  14. ^, Abducted Italian priest freed in southern Philippines Last accessed 20 July 2007
  15. ^, MILF to military on Bossi: ‘We told you so’ Last accessed 20 July 2007
  16. ^ a b c Lidasan, A. (2007) The Moro people have had it with all-out wars! Make Room for Peace, Pull-out troops in Basilan. Arkibong Bayan
  17. ^, Philippines high court blocks signing of regional peace agreement
  18. ^ Parameswaran, Prashanth (2008-08-18). "Preserving the Southern Philippines' Threatened Peace Deal". World Politics Review. Retrieved 2009-01-14.  
  19. ^ a b c Arguillas, C. (2008), SC affirms Oct. 14 ruling on "unconstitutional" MOA-AD, [| Mindanews]
  20. ^ a b Mindanews (2009), Young Moro group appeals to public: "open your hearts to the Moro grievance"Mindanews
  21. ^ Mindanaws (2009), Military starts operations against Bravo, Mindanews
  22. ^ Gallardo, F. (2009), Thousands line up road for Mindanao Peace Power Day, Mindanews
  23. ^, SC Declares MOA-AD Unconstitutional
  24. ^ abs-cbnnews, Palace loses ancestral domain case with 8-7 SC vote
  25. ^, Peace adviser committed ‘grave abuse of authority’

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