Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)

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The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF; Arabic: جبهة تحرير مورو الإسلامية‎‎ Jabhat Tahrīr Moro al-ʿIslāmiyyah) is a group based in Mindanao, Philippines seeking an autonomous region of the Moro people from the central government.[2] The group has a presence in the Bangsamoro region of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago, Palawan, Basilan, and other neighbouring islands

History

he Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is a Moro and Lumad group formed in the 1960s following the alleged Jabidah massacre to achieve greater Bangsamoro autonomy in the southern Philippines.[4] The MNLF took part in terrorist attacks and assassinations to achieve their goals.[5][6] The government in Manila sent troops into the southern Philippines to control the insurgency. In 1976, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi brokered a negotiation between the Philippine government and MNLF Leader Nur Misuari which led to the signing of the MNLF-GRPH Tripoli Agreement of 1976 wherein the MNLF accepted the Philippine government’s offer of semi-autonomy of the regions in dispute.[7]

The signing of this agreement brought about a serious rift[8] in MNLF leadership, leading to the formation of a breakaway group in 1977 by Hashim Salamat and 57 MNLF officers. The group was initially known as “The New Leadership”. Misuari expelled Salamat in December 1977, after which Salamat moved his new organization first to Cairo, Egypt and then, in 1980, to Lahore, Pakistan, where it engaged in diplomatic activities. This organization was formally established in 1984 as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.[7] Muammar Gaddafi became a longstanding supporter of the MILF after its emergence.[9][10][11]

In January 1987, the MNLF accepted the Philippine government’s offer of semi-autonomy[8] of the regions in dispute, subsequently leading to the establishment of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao on 6 November 1990. The MILF, however, refused to accept this offer and continued their insurgency operations. A general cessation of hostilities between the government in Manila and the MILF was signed in July 1997 but this agreement was abolished in 2000 by the Philippine Army under the administration of Philippine President Joseph Estrada. In response, the MILF declared a jihad against the government, its citizens and supporters. Under President Gloria Arroyo, the government entered into a cease-fire agreement with the MILF and resumed peace talks.[12]

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Despite peace negotiations and the cease-fire agreement, the MILF attacked government troops in Maguindanao resulting in at least twenty-three deaths in January 2005. The combined armies of the MILF 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 MILF members,[13] raised speculation that the peace negotiations might be ineffectual in bringing peace to Mindanao if the MILF is unable to control its operatives. The MILF denies ties with terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, although Jemaah Islamiyah is considered to have provided them with training facilities in areas they control.[14][15] 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 Philippines, though the group denies directly receiving any payment.[16]

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From June 28 to July 6, 2006, conflict between the MILF 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 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 civilian volunteers to arrest MILF 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 11.[17]

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Talks between the MILF and the government collapsed in 2008 after a Supreme Court decision in Sema vs. COMELEC which rejected a preliminary accord that would have expanded the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. In 2011, the MILF withdrew their demands for independence, instead saying that they would pursue substate status, likened to a U.S. state instead of independence from the Philippines.[18

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