Terrorism Groups in the Philippines

There are four major terrorist groups active in the Philippines today: The Moro National Liberation Front, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Abu Sayyaf and the New People’s Army. The first three are Islamic groups that operate primarily in the south of the nation, where most of the country’s Muslim minority live. The Communist New People’s Army operates in the northern Philippines. Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Emerging in the early 1970s, the MNLF sought an independent Islamic nation in the Filipino islands with sizeable Muslim populations.

In 1996, the MNLF signed a peace agreement with Manila that created the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), an area composed of two mainland provinces and three island provinces in which the predominantly Muslim population enjoys a degree of self-rule. MNLF chairman and founder Nur Misuari was installed as the region’s governor but his rule ended in violence when he led a failed uprising against the Philippines government in November 2001. He is currently in jail and MNLF leader Parouk Hussin took over as ARMM governor in 2002.

Nur Misuari reportedly still has a small band of followers who remain actively opposed to the current arrangement. Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) The largest Islamic extremist group in the Philippines, the MILF split from the MNLF in 1977 and continues to wage war against Manila. Headed by Islamic cleric Salamat Hashim, the MILF seeks a separate Islamic state in the southern Philippines. Although it signed a peace agreement with Manila in 2001, MILF-sponsored violence has continued.

Andang is suspected of involvement in the April 2000 kidnapping of Western tourists in Malaysia. Today, Abu Sayyaf is composed of several semi-autonomous factions with an estimated cadre of several hundred active fighters and about 1,000 supporters. New People’s Army (NPA) The NPA is the military wing of the Communist People’s Party of the Philippines (CPP). Founded in 1969 with the aim of overthrowing the Philippines government through guerrilla warfare, the NPA strongly opposes the U.

S. military presence in the Philippines and publicly expressed its intent to target U. S. personnel in the Philippines in January 2002, warning that any American troops who enter their stronghold areas will be considered “legitimate targets. ” The NPA primarily targets Philippine security forces, politicians, judges, government informers and former NPA rebels. The NPA’s founder, Jose Maria Sison, lives in self-imposed exile in the Netherlands and reportedly directs operations from there.

Manila is committed to a negotiated peace settlement with the NPA but peace talks between the CPP and the Philippine government stalled in June 2001, after the NPA admitted killing a Filipino congressman. In September 2002, the NPA claimed responsibility for assassinating a mayor, attacking a police station and killing the police chief, and blowing up a mobile telecommunications transmission station. The NPA derives most of its funding from supporters in the Philippines and Europe and from so-called revolutionary taxes extorted from local businesses.

Together, the CPP/NPA has an estimated strength of over 10,000 members. have links with international terrorism, particularly with Jemaah Islamiyah and Al Qaeda. The MILF is suspected of training JI members at MILF training camps in the southern Philippines. It is suspected that early funding and organizational support of Abu Sayyaf was provided by Osama Bin Laden associate and brother-in- law Muhammad Jamal Khalifa. In 1997, the U. S. State Department designated Abu Sayyaf a foreign terrorist organization.

In January 2002, Filipino police arrested Indonesian Islamic extremist Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, 31, a self-confessed member of Jemaah Islamiyah and an Al Qaeda explosives expert. Following his arrest, Ghozi led Filipino authorities to a large cache of arms and explosives in Mindanao and told a Filipino court that he planned to use the explosives for jihad attacks in Asia. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison. In July 2003, Al-Ghozi escaped from prison and in October 2003, Philippine forces tracked him down and killed him.

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