Philippines: MILF attack leaves 7 dead

 

The jihad proceeds along two tracks. One is violent, as you can see from this story. The other is non-violent. It attempts to compel non-Muslims to comply with Sharia provisions, piece by piece, bit by bit, until that compliance is full. That side of the jihad you can see at the other daily-updated page of this site, Dhimmi Watch, which is full of amazing stories today.

Philippine Jihad Update: “Seven killed in ambush by Philippine Muslim rebels,” from AFP, August 17 (thanks to JW):

RP Muslim Rebels Losing Patience Over Peace Talks

Photos from February 2008 with US twat (ambassador) Kristie Kenney




Top photo shows MILF rebels gather in a plenum in 2004 in Mindanao and rebel chieftain Murad Ebrahim with US Ambassador Kristie Kenney during their meeting February 2008 in Sultan Kudarat province.(Mindanao Examiner Photo/Mark Navales)

MARAWI, Philippines (AFP) – Four soldiers and three pro-government militiamen were killed in an ambush by Muslim separatist rebels in the southern Philippines Sunday, the military said.Eight soldiers and three militiamen were also wounded in the attack near the town of Malundo in Lanao del Sur province, the military said.

The casualties were being airlifted to the nearest military base, and troop reinforcements had been sent to the area to hunt the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels who carried out the attack, the military said.

The ambush came four days after government forces, using heavy artillery and air support, dislodged MILF rebels from some 22 villages they had occupied last week.

More than 200 houses were burned by the rebels and numerous farm animals and equipment stolen when the MILF occupied the area, leaving unexploded bombs behind as they fled, the military said.

About 160,000 people were displaced from their homes, and the fighting left nearly 30 MILF rebels, six civilians and two soldiers dead….

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Here’s an article from October 2004: take a look and ask yourself if anything has changed!

Peace in Mindanao: Still a Long Way to Go

The MILF insists that a “final solution” that does not represent the aspirations and interests of the Moro people is out of the question. “The reality is, unless the economic, political, religious and cultural interests of the Bangsamoro people are protected, there will be no peace agreement,” MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said.

BY CARLOS H. CONDE
Bulatlat  

MILF chairman Al Haj Murad elaborates a point (left) while a number of MILF guerrillas take watch (right). Photos by Gene Boyd Lumawag and Carlos Conde

DARAPANAN, Maguindanao – In his brown safari suit, black leather shoes and a Muslim head gear called kupiya, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim did not exude anything that people normally associate with a revolutionary. He looked and sounded amiable, more like a professor than the chairman of the main Islamic separatist movement in the Philippines, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The only thing, perhaps, that was inconsistent with the grandfatherly air about the 54-year-old mujahideen were the dozens of armed MILF guerrillas in camouflage and fatigue uniforms, some wearing combat boots, some wearing flip-flop slippers, most with an alert look on their face. They milled outside Murad’s hut, a dozen or so eavesdropping on this late afternoon conversation in this camp about 20 minutes drive from Cotabato City.

The Armalites and grenade launchers around him notwithstanding, Murad exuded coolness and calm. As we were talking that Saturday afternoon, 43 Malaysians had just arrived to observe the implementation of the ceasefire between the MILF and the government. Lately, people concerned with the negotiations had been talking about two of perhaps the most contentious issues in the peace process: ancestral domain and what some in the MILF have unfortunately called “the final solution” to the conflict in Mindanao.

Murad is barely into his first year as MILF chairman; Salamat Hashim, the MILF’s founding chairman, died in July last year and it took weeks before the MILF named Murad as the successor. The former vice-chairman for military affairs, Murad seemed the logical choice: he had commanded the troops and, as we realized while talking with him, he is intelligent and articulate.

“The only hope”

Murad can be straightforward. To the insinuation that internal rifts are threatening to splinter the MILF and compromise its position in the negotiations, he had this to say: “The Bangsamoro people feel that their only hope is the MILF. There is no other viable organization that can represent the Bangsamoro people.”

On the charges that the MILF continues to harbor Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorists, Murad was frank. True, he said, foreigners who later turned out to be extremists may have infiltrated the MILF camps but this was only because, for the longest time, the MILF’s Camp Abubakar, its former base that was destroyed by the military in 2000, was open to all sorts of people. But to say, he added, that the MILF continues as an organization to accept and train terrorists is utter nonsense.

In his earlier pronouncements, Murad did not mince words in saying that some sectors in government, notably the military, did not want the MILF to go into the mainstream and did not want the peace process to succeed. This is the reason why the MILF, he said, is continually being lumped with Jemaah Islamiyah.

(Immediately after the 2003 bombings in Davao City, the government and the military blamed the MILF. Earlier this year, the government retracted and dropped the charges against the MILF, which had been a major obstacle in the negotiations.)

U.S. interests

Meanwhile, the United States, Murad said, is very concerned with terrorism in Mindanao and would want the peace process to succeed. This is why the U.S. has had indirect involvement, through the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP).  “It is in the best interest of the Philippine government and the United States to find a solution to the Mindanao problem,” he said. He added that the U.S. is afraid that if Mindanao continues to be mired in conflict, terrorist groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah would exploit the situation.

When asked about U.S. economic interests in Mindanao, where the USAID has been plunking millions of dollars in aid and where a number of U.S. companies operate, Murad replied that these could be the U.S.’s “long-term goal but its short term goal is fighting terrorism.”

At any rate, the peace process, which is scheduled to resume after the Ramadan, is now at a most crucial phase: the issues of ancestral domain and the solution to the conflict.

For years, the negotiations were hampered by the seemingly endless violations of cease-fire agreements and the government’s military operations in such areas as the Buliok Complex. Now, a more workable ceasefire mechanism is in place, with both government and MILF ceasefire teams actually working to defuse tension — many of them instigated by clan and tribal wars, not by the MILF or the AFP – and investigate complaints.

The relative calm in central Mindanao nowadays has afforded both sides the opportunity to move ahead with the peace process, Murad said.

Contentious issue

But the ancestral domain issue alone promises to be contentious, if only because it goes right to the heart of the Moro people’s struggle: the exploitation of their natural resources. The MILF, for all practical purposes, has ruled out the autonomy model supposedly being practiced inside the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Critics, among them people identified with the MILF, have described the ARMM autonomy as a joke, simply because ultimate control of ARMM resources does not actually reside in ARMM.

The MILF insists that a “final solution” that does not represent the aspirations and interests of the Moro people is out of the question. “The reality is, unless the economic, political, religious and cultural interests of the Bangsamoro people are protected, there will be no peace agreement,” Murad said. And this can be achieved only if the Moros retain control of their ancestral domains, many of which have been encroached into by Christians, big business and multinational companies.

“While we expect lengthy, arduous and even heated deliberations, we in the MILF are approaching the negotiating table with much hope to resolve every obstacle along the way,” Murad said in a statement earlier this month.

Radicalization

The stakes are high, Murad said. If the negotiation fails, there is a good likelihood that the young generation of MILF fighters might be radicalized and might turn to the one thing that Murad fears: terrorism.

“There is now a process of changing from our generation to the younger generation. Most of them were exposed to the war, the violence of the war. We are afraid the younger generation would be more radical,” Murad told Reuters in a separate interview.

The International Crisis Group (ICG), a Brussels-based think tank that has studied the MILF, warned in July this year that the radicalization of MILF guerrillas through Jemaah Islamiyah was putting Mindanao at even greater risk. “The most significant threat of all for the Philippines and the wider region is the possibility of international terrorism and domestic insurgency becoming ever more closely interwoven and mutually reinforcing,” it said in a report.

This, the ICG added, “lends new urgency to the quest for peace” in Mindanao. “Genuine and fully implemented autonomy for Philippine Muslims is a sine qua non in winning the long-term war on terror in Mindanao,” it said.

The Moro insurgency has been going on since the 1970s. Tens of thousands have died in the conflict while hundreds of thousands have been displaced from their homes. An earlier group called the Moro National Liberation Front signed a peace agreement with Manila and a Muslim autonomous region was subsequently created.

But this attempt at autonomy failed to eliminate what historians have cited as the causes of the separatist movement: poverty, the discrimination of the Muslims by the largely Christian population, their disenfranchisement in Philippine politics, and Manila’s continuing control of Muslim areas and how the resources there are being exploited. To this day, the Muslim areas are still the poorest and least educated in the country, not to mention the most exposed to the violence of war.

Proposals

Apart from the autonomy, there have been other proposals on the type of system that could be put in place in the Muslim regions but not one has been put in place, mainly because the peace negotiations have been slow, most often delayed by the fighting on the ground.

Salamat Hashim once suggested that the United Nations step in and hold a referendum on whether Moros want to separate from the Philippines, similar to the one in East Timor that finally established that country.

One proposal that has made quite an impact, if only because President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself has started talking about it, is to change the republic’s type of government to federal. European nongovernment organizations, particularly those from Germany, have funded programs to popularize federalism. Federalism’s proponents believe that it can provide the genuine autonomy the Muslims need.

Murad conceded that there’s still a long way to go for peace to finally settle in Mindanao. “We don’t know what the solution will be. It can be a combination of federalism, parliamentary and a sultanate – like in Malaysia,” he said. “But we don’t really mind what it is, and we don’t really mind whether the U.S. or other countries will have a hand in it, as long as the political, economic and cultural rights and aspirations of Moros will be respected and recognized.” Bulatlat