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Islamic insurgency in the Philippines
PMC BAlikatan Exercise.jpg
MILF militant lying prone.jpg
Above:Filipino and US Troops during the PMC Balikatan Exercise
Below:A member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front training with a light machine gun.
LocationPhilippines (mainly in Mindanao)
Status Ongoing; preliminary framework signed temporarily ceasing hostilities
United States (advisors)[1]
 Australia (support)[2]

Ph mnlf-tripoli.gif Moro National Liberation Front[3]

  • Ph mnlf-tripoli.gif Bangsamoro Republik

22px Moro Islamic Liberation Front
 Malaysia (former alleged support)[4][5]
 Libya (former supporter)[6]
 North Korea (former alleged support) [7]
Flag of Jihad.svg Abu Sayyaf
Flag of Jihad.svg Rajah Sulaiman Movement
Flag of Jihad.svg Jemaah Islamiyah
Flag of Jihad.svg al-Khobar
Flag of Jihad.svg 15EC
Flag of Jihad.svg Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters[8]
Flag of Jihad.svg Khilafah Islamiyah [9]
Commanders and leaders
Philippines Fidel V. Ramos (1992-1998)
Philippines Joseph Estrada (1998-2001)
Philippines Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2001-2010)
Philippines Benigno Aquino III (2010-present)
Philippines General Emmanuel T. Bautista
Philippines Lieutenant General Noel Coballes
Ph mnlf-tripoli.gif Nur Misuari
22px Murad Ibrahim
Flag of Jihad.svg Khadaffy Janjalani
Casualties and losses
572 Filipino soldiers[10]
17 American soldiers[11]
(since 2002)

The Moro insurgency in the Philippines refers to political tensions and open hostilities which began in 1969[13] between the Jihadist rebel groups and the Government of the Philippines. The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was established by University of the Philippines professor Nur Misuari to condemn the killings of more than 60 Filipino Muslims and later became an aggressor against the government while the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a splinter group from the MNLF, was established to seek an Islamic state within the Philippines and is more radical and more aggressive. Conflict dates back to 1899 during the uprising of the Bangsamoro people to resist foreign rule from the United States. Hostilities ignited again starting in the 1960s when the government started to resist upcoming rebellions by killing more than 60 Filipino Muslims and continues up to present.

Casualty statistics vary for the conflict however the conservative estimates of the Uppsala Conflict Data Program indicate that at least 6,015 people were killed in armed conflict between the Government of Philippines and ASG, BIFM, MILF, MNLF and MNLF factions between 1989 and 2012.[14]


Moro Rebellion (1899-1913)

The aftermath of the First Battle of Bud Dajo

Fronts and captures in Basilan

Following the Spanish-American War in 1898, another conflict sparked in southern Philippines between the revolutionary Muslims in the Philippines and the United States Military that took place between 1899 and 1913. Filipinos opposed foreign rule from the United States that claimed the Philippines as their territory. On August 14, 1898, after defeating Spanish forces, the United States had established a military government in the Philippines under General Wesley Merritt as Military Governor.[15] American forces took control from the Spanish government in Jolo on May 18, 1899, and at Zamboanga in December 1899.[16] Brigadier General John C. Bates was sent to negotiate a treaty with the Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram II. Kiram was disappointed knowing that the American forces would take over since he expected to regain sovereignty after the defeat of Spanish forces in the archipelago. Bates' main goal was to guarantee Moro neutrality in the Philippine-American War, and to establish order in the southern Philippines. After some negotiation, the Bates Treaty was signed which was based on an earlier Spanish treaty. The Bates Treaty did ensure the neutrality of the Muslims in the south but it was actually set up to buy time for the Americans until the war in the north ended.

On March 20, 1900, General Bates was replaced by Brigadier General William August Kobbé and the District of Mindanao-Jolo was upgraded to a full department. American forces in Mindanao were reinforced and hostilities with the Moro people lessened although there are reports of Americans and other civilians being attacked and slain by Moros.

Insurrection began in 1900 and lasted for a year. The American forces then move push inside the settles of Moro people. Kobbé was replaced by George Whitefield Davis as the commander of the Department of Mindanao-Jolo and put up better relationships with the Moro people.

It continued for more than three decades which resulted in massive lost of lives.[citation needed] Military governors were appointed by the United States to ensure peace and stability within the region. The conflict ended at the term of Major General John J. Pershing, the third and final military governor of Moro Province, although resistance continued in Bud Dajo and Mount Bagsak in Jolo.

Prelude and the Administrations of Marcos, Aquino and Ramos (1960-1998)

Under President Ferdinand Marcos, 68 Filipino Muslim military trainees were murdered in Corregidor allegedly by soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.[17][18] The trainees were believed to be a part of an upcoming rebellion.[18] By then, University of the Philippines professor Nur Misuari formed the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to condemn the killings of the 68 Filipino Muslims and to seek the establishment of a Bangsamoro nation through force of arms.[18]

Osama bin Laden in 1997

In 1969, the MNLF waged armed conflict against the Philippine government.[18] During one of the fierce battles of the insurgency in 1974, Jolo was burned down and news of the tragedy galvanized other Muslims around the world to pay greater attention to the conflict. Two years later, the Philippine government and the MNLF signed the Tripoli Agreement, declaring ceasefire on both sides. Within the agreement provided that Mindanao would remain a part of the Philippines but 13 of its provinces would be under the autonomous government for the Bangsamoro people.[18] President Marcos went against the agreement and violence ensued.

In 1977, Shiekh Salamat Hashim established the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a splinter group of the MNLF seeking to establish an Islamic state.[19] Conflicts between these rebel groups and the Armed Forces of the Philippines would continue until the end of the regime of President Marcos.

Earlier in her term, President Corazon Aquino arranged a meeting with MNLF chairman Nur Misuari and several MNLF rebel groups in Sulu, which paved the way for a series of negotiations. In 1989, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was created under Republic Act No. 6734 or the ARMM Organic Act, pursuant to the 1987 Constitution.[20]

In 1991, Abdurajak Janjalani, a former teacher who studied Islam in the Middle East, formed the Abu Sayyaf Group after reportedly meeting Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Janjalani recruited former members of the MNLF for the more radical and theocratic Abu Sayyaf.[18]

Under the Presidency of Fidel V. Ramos, several negotiations and peace talks[13] were held and the ARMM was solidified and was to have its own geopolitical system.[18]

Administrations of Estrada and Arroyo (1998-2010)

Political map of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)

During his term President Joseph Ejercito Estrada he declared an "all-out war" against the MILF on March 21, 2000 although a series of negotiations for cessation of hostilities were held.[19] Apparently, several conflicts in and around Mindanao erupted and clashes between the Philippine Military and the rebel groups resulted in massive loss of lives.

During his term, these rebel groups kidnapped three Italian priests, two were later released and one was shot dead;[21][22] seized the municipal hall of Talayan, Maguindanao and Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte; the bombing during the feast Our Lady of Mediatrix at Ozamiz; and the takeover of Narciso Ramos Highway. All these incidents resulted in massive loss of investments abroad, especially in the area of Mindanao.

As a result, the Armed Forces of the Philippines launched a successful campaign against these rebel groups and 43 minor camps, 13 major camps including the MILF headquarters, and Camp Abubakar[23] fell. MILF suffered heavy losses and the head of MILF, Sheikh Salamat Hashim, fled the country and sought refuge in Malaysia. On October 5, 2000, 609 rebels surrendered in Cagayan de Oro, along with renegade town mayor Mulapandi Cosain Sarip.[24] These was followed by another massive surrender of 855 rebels on December 29, 2000. President Joseph Ejercito Estrada then ordered that the Philippine flag be raised in Mindanao which symbolized victory. It was raised on July 9, 2000 near a Madh'hab and again the next day along with President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, which held a feast inside a classroom just meters away from a mosque.[23]

As a result, several Islamic rebel groups retaliated, bombing several key locations within the National Capital Region on December 30, 2000. It resulted in 22 deaths and hundreds of people injured. Saifullah Yunos, one of the perpetrators was arrested in Cagayan de Oro as he was about to board a plane bound to Manila in May 2003.[25] In 2004, two members of the Jemaah Islamiyah were arrested, namely Mamasao Naga and Abdul Pata as they were identified by Fathur Rahman al-Ghozi as responsible for the train bombing.[26] al-Ghozi was also arrested, but was later killed in a firefight when he tried to escape the prison on October 13, 2003.

On May 27, 2001, the Abu Sayyaf seized twenty hostages from an upscale resort in Palawan. Four of the hostages managed to escape.[27] The kidnapping group composed of 40 gunmen then seized the Dr. Jose Torres Memorial Hospital and St. Peter's Church compound in the town of Lamitan in Basilan[28] and claimed to have taken captive 200 people although 20 people were confirmed to be taken captive inside the hospital, including the staff and the patients.[29][30]

There was a crossfire between the Army and the Abu Sayyaf rebels in Lamitan following the takeover of Dr. Jose Torres Memorial Hospital which resulted in the deaths of 12 soldiers, including the army captain.[30] Up to 22 soldiers were reportedly to have been killed in an effort to rescue the hostages.

Five more captives escaped during the battle at Lamitan. Two of the captives were killed prior to the siege in Lamitan, including the beheading of one.[27] The Abu Sayyaf then conducted series of raids, including one at a coconut plantation[31] where the rebel groups hacked the heads of two men using bolo knives. The owners and a security guard was also held captive and the rebel groups burnt down two buildings, including a chapel a week after the battle in Lamitan.[31] Another raid was conducted in August 2, 2001 on Barangay Balobo in Lamitan, Basilan. After three days, the Philippine Army rescued numerous hostages[32] after they overtook the hideout of the militants where 11 bodies were found beheaded.[33] Other hostages were either released or had escaped.[32]

On June 13, 2001, the number of hostages was calculated at around 28 as three more people were found beheaded in Basilan,[34] including that of Guillermo Sobero.[35] They were beheaded since the Philippine Army would not halt the rescue operation.[35]

The Burhams were still on the group of 14 still held captive according to three hostages who escaped on October 2001.[35] On June 7, 2002, after a year of being held captive, a rescue mission was conducted and resulted in the deaths of Martin Burnham and a nurse named Ediborah Yap[36] after being caught in the crossfire. Martin was killed by three gunshots in the chest while Gracia was wounded in her right leg. By this time Nur Misuari ordered his supporters to attack government targets to prevent the holding of elections on ARMM on November 2001, ushering his exit as the governor of the region.[18] Misuari would be later arrested in 2007 in Malaysia and was deported back to the Philippines for trial.[18]

On July 2004, Gracia Burnham testified at a trial of eight Abu Sayyaf members and identified six of the suspects as being her erstwhile captors, including Alhamzer Limbong, Abdul Azan Diamla, Abu Khari Moctar, Bas Ishmael, Alzen Jandul and Dazid Baize. Fourteen Abu Sayyaf members were sentenced to life imprisonment while four were acquitted. Alhamzer Limbong was later killed in a prison uprising.[37]

These rebel groups, especially the Abu Sayyaf conducted several terror attacks, namely the bombings at Zamboanga in October 2002; the bombing of SuperFerry 14 on February 2004; the simultaneous bombings in Central Mindanao on October 2006; the beheadings of several Philippine Marines on July 2007; the Batasang Pambansa bombing on November 2007; and the 2009 bombings in Mindanao.

Numerous clashes erupted between the Philippine Army and the rebel groups, such as the clash on June 14, 2009 that killed 10 rebels.[38]

Since 2001, the Philippines and the United States have been on a campaign to battle this insurgency, known as War on Terror. To combat the insurgency, the United States and the Philippines conducted the Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines,[39] a part of the worldwide campaign against terrorism known as Operation Enduring Freedom.

Conflict between the MNLF and Abu Sayyaf

In 2013, two main camps of the Abu Sayyaf group were overrun by forces of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in its latest offensive in Patikul.[40] According to MNLF leader Nur Misuari, the MNLF offensive against the Abu Sayyaf is because of the MNLF opposition to the Abu Sayyafs human rights abuses which goes against Islam.

Administration of Aquino

During the term of President Benigno Aquino III, a series of peace talks for the cessation of hostilities was held, including the meeting of MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ibrahim in Tokyo, Japan which was lauded on both sides.[18] Norway also joined the International Monitoring Team (IMT) on January 2011, overseeing the ceasefire agreement between the government and MILF on Mindanao. Despite the peace talks, a series of conflicts erupted. on September 10, 2011, Jal Idris, a hardcore member of Abu Sayyaf, was arrested by government forces after a crossfire between the Philippine Army and the rebel group[41] The Armed Forces of the Philippines also killed three Abu Sayyaf militants in a stand-off[42] the following day after the arrest of Jal Idris.

Terrorism continued throughout his term, on January 2011, 4 merchants and a guide were killed by the Abu Sayyaf[43] and later, a soldier would be killed in a clash against the rebels.[44] These rebel groups attacked a village in Sulu, killing 7 Marines and taking 7 civilians captive. They later freed 2 of the hostages after a ransom was paid.[45] Also, several areas in Mindanao were bombed on August 2011 and a Filipino businesswoman was abducted on September 2011[46] who was later freed after the three gunmen were gunned down by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.[47]

On October 2011, the MILF was blamed for the killings 30 government troops, thereby violating the ceasefire agreement. It produced outrage and so the battle against terrorism in the country wages on.

Zamboanga City crisis (2013)

See also


  1. News Article: Trainers, Advisors Help Philippines Fight Terrorism
  2. Philippines to be a key recipient of Australia's New Regional Counter-Terrorism Package - Australian Embassy
  3. Ivan Molloy. "Revolution in the Philippines – The Question of an Alliance Between Islam and Communism". University of California. Retrieved May 1, 2012. 
  4. Cookies must be enabled. | The Australian
  5. "Malaysian trained MNLF fighters 'on attack'". Al Jazeera English. 2013. Retrieved April 7, 2012. 
  6. Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)
  7. World Page: Report: North Korea armed Islamic group in Philippines
  8. MILF says MNLF joins fray on side of BIFM -
  9. New al-Qaeda-inspired group eyed in Mindanao blasts—terror expert | Inquirer News
  10. Julie Alipala (October 2, 2010). "RP terror campaign cost lives of 11 US, 572 RP soldiers—military". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved May 1, 2012. 
  11. "Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq, Fatalities". iCasualties. August 30, 2011. Retrieved May 1, 2012. 
  12. "Crisis — Again — for the Philippines' Arroyo". Time Magazine. November 1, 2007.,9171,1678666,00.html. Retrieved December 4, 2007. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 The Long Struggle to Silence the Guns of Rebellion: A Review of the Long and Winding Trail to the Elusive Peace Agreements by The CenSEI Report
  14. Uppsala Conflict Data Program, Philippines: Mindanao (entire conflict), viewed on 2013-05-03,
  15. Halstead, Murat (1898). "The Story of the Philippines and Our New Possessions, Including the Ladrones, Hawaii, Cuba and Porto Rico". pp. 110–112. 
  16. Hurley, Victor (1936). "Mindinao and Sulu in 1898". Swish of the Kris. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co. Archived from the original on July 12, 2008. Retrieved December 2, 2007. 
  17. "Lone survivor recalls Jabidah Massacre". Philippine Daily Inquirer. March 18, 2008. Retrieved May 5, 2012. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 18.6 18.7 18.8 18.9 "Fighting and talking: A Mindanao conflict timeline". GMA News and Public Affairs. October 27, 2011. Retrieved May 5, 2012. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 "Speech of Former President Estrada on the GRP-MORO Conflict". Human Development Network. September 18, 2008. Retrieved May 2, 2012. 
  20. "ARMM history and organization". GMA News and Public Affairs. August 11, 2008. Retrieved May 5, 2012. 
  21. "WHAT WENT BEFORE: Third Italian priest killed". Philippine Daily Inquirer. October 18, 2011. Retrieved May 3, 2012. 
  22. "Italian priest shot dead in Mindanao". The Philippine Star. October 18, 2011. Retrieved May 3, 2012. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 "The fall of MILF?s Camp Abubakar in Maguindanao 10 years ago". July 10, 2010. Retrieved May 5, 2012. 
  24. "Over 600 Muslim Rebels Surrender, Philippine Leader Says more to Follow". October 5, 2000. Retrieved May 5, 2012. 
  25. Joel M. Sy Egco (May 26, 2003). "Rizal Day suspect caught". Manila Standard Today. Retrieved February 15, 2007. 
  26. Benjamin Pulta; Miko Santos (December 30, 2003). "Gov’t seeks re-raffling of LRT bombing case". Sun.Star. Retrieved February 8, 2007. 
  27. 27.0 27.1 "Philippines hostage search begins". BBC News. 27 May 2001. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  28. "Abu Sayyaf kidnappings, bombings and other attacks". GMA News. August 23, 2007. Retrieved March 22, 2010. 
  29. "Philippines hostage crisis deepens". BBC News. 2 June 2001. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  30. 30.0 30.1 "Abu Sayyaf bandits kill two hostages, escape military siege". CDNN. 4 June 2001. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 "Philippines offer averts beheading". BBC News. June 11, 2001. Retrieved March 23, 2010. 
  32. 32.0 32.1 "Hostages rescued in the Philippines". BBC News. August 5, 2002. Retrieved March 23, 2010. 
  33. "Balobo Killings in Basilan Province, August 2, 2001". Human Rights Watch. July 2007. Retrieved March 23, 2010. 
  34. "Philippines bodies identified". BBC News. June 13, 2001. Retrieved March 23, 2010. 
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 "US hostage confirmed dead". BBC News. October 12, 2001. Retrieved March 23, 2010. 
  36. "Hostages die in Philippine rescue bid". BBC News. June 7, 2002. Retrieved March 23, 2010. 
  37. "Philippines Brace for Retaliation". Associated Press. June 7, 2002. Retrieved March 23, 2010. 
  38. "10 MILF rebels killed in Freedom Day clashes". Zambotimes. June 14, 2009. Retrieved May 8, 2012. 
  39. "Philippines-Mindanao conflict - At a Glance". AlertNet. Retrieved May 6, 2012. 
  40. MNLF overruns 2 Abu Sayyaf camps | ABS-CBN News
  41. "Government Forces Arrest Suspected Abu Sayyaf Hardcore Man". Sun.Star. September 10, 2011. 
  42. "Filipino Troops kill 3 Gunmen Allied to Abu Sayyaf". Associated Press. September 11, 2011. 
  43. "Five killed by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in Basilan". Manila Bulletin. January 12, 2011. Retrieved May 8, 2012. 
  44. "Soldier killed in Basilan clash". Journal. Retrieved May 8, 2012. 
  45. "2 kidnapped traders freed in Philippines". The Mindanao Examiner. August 28, 2011. 
  46. "Gunmen Abduct Filipino Businesswoman in Southern Philippines, Officials Say". Washington Post. September 4, 2011. 
  47. "Philippine Troops Kill 3 Militants, Rescue Trader". Associated Press. September 19, 2011. 

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