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In 1969, political tensions and open hostilities developed between the Government of the Philippines and Moro Muslim rebel groups. The Moro Insurgency was triggered by the Jabidah massacre, which saw the killing of 60 Filipino Muslim commandos on a planned operation to reclaim the eastern part of the Malaysian state of Sabah. In response, the University of the Philippines professor Nur Misuari established the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), an armed insurgent group that was committed to establishing an independent Mindanao. Over the successive years, the MNLF has splintered into several different groups including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which wanted to establish an Islamic state within the Philippines. The Moro Insurgency is rooted in a long history of resistance by the Bangsamoro people against foreign rule, dating back to the American annexation of the Philippines in 1899. Since then, Moro resistance has persisted against the Philippine government.
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, and MNLF factions between 1989 and 2012.
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|History of the Philippines|
The Moros had a history of resistance against Spanish, American, and Japanese rule for 400 years. The origin of the war between the Moros and Christian Filipinos during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. During the Spanish–Moro conflict, Spain repeatedly tried to conquer the Moro Sultanate of Sulu, Sultanate of Maguindanao, and the Confederation of sultanates in Lanao. The violent armed struggle against the Japanese, Filipinos, Spanish, and Americans is considered by current Moro Muslim leaders to be part of a four-century-long "national liberation movement" of the Bangsamoro (Moro Nation). The 400-year-long resistance against the Japanese, Americans, and Spanish by the Moro Muslims persisted and morphed into their current war for independence against the Philippine state.
The root of the conflict originates in the Spanish and American wars against the Moros.
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, which claimed the Philippines as its territory. On 14 August 1898, after defeating Spanish forces, the United States had established a military government in the Philippines under General Wesley Merritt as Military Governor. American forces took control from the Spanish government in Jolo on 18 May 1899, and at Zamboanga in December 1899. Brigadier General John C. Bates was sent to negotiate a treaty with the Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram II. Kiram was disappointed by the American takeover, as 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. After the war, in 1915, the Americans imposed the Carpenter Treaty on Sulu.
On 20 March 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.
The American invasion began in 1904 and ended at the term of Major General John J. Pershing, the third and final military governor of Moro Province, although major resistance continued in Bud Dajo and Mount Bagsak in Jolo. The Americans slaughtered hundreds of Moro women and children in the Moro Crater massacre.
Repeated rebellions by the Moros against American rule continued to break out even after the main Moro Rebellion ended, right up to the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II. During the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, the Moros waged an insurgency against the Japanese on Mindanao and Sulu until Japan surrendered in 1945. Moro Juramentados attacked the Spanish, Americans, Philippine constabulary and the Japanese.
Under President Ferdinand Marcos, 68 Filipino Muslim military trainees were murdered in Corregidor, allegedly by soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The trainees were believed to be a part of an upcoming rebellion. By then, University of the Philippines professor Nur Misuari had 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.
The American colonial government and subsequently the Philippine government followed a policy of demographic swamping by settling massive amounts of Filipino settlers from the Visayan islands and Luzon on Moro lands in Mindanao. The policy resulted in a massive wave of Filipinos settling on Mindanao where the population of Filipino settlers now outnumbers the native Moro by the millions. This was an additional factor in aggravating conflicts between the native Moro and Filipino settlers as disputes over land increased. Another complaint of the Moros is the extraction of Mindanao's natural resources and wealth by the central government while the Moro population lives in mass poverty.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Moro Muslims and Lumad animists controlled an area which now covers 17 of Mindanao's 24 provinces, but by the 1980 census, they constituted less than 6% of the population of Mindanao and Sulu. Heavy migration to Mindanao of Luzon and Visayans, spurred by continuous government-sponsored resettlement programs, turned the indigenous Lumads and Moros into minorities. The native Moros struggled against Christian settlers over the land.
Moro Muslims and Lumads were supplanted by the first Spanish and American colonization programs, with settlers taking control of key areas along newly-built roads and disrupting the Moro's traditional administrative structures and control over resources. The Americans chose the obedient settlers to become officials of settler-populated townships instead of Lumad and Moro, with the environment becoming ruined due to the activities of the settlers and logging. Severe deterioration of the land in Mindanao ensued after the continuing influx of Filipino settlers, with the land becoming essentially useless. Eric S. Casiño wrote about the interaction between the Filipino settlers, the Moro and Lumad natives and the impact on the environment in his book Mindanao Statecraft and Ecology: Moros, Lumads, and Settlers Across the Lowland-highland Continuum.
The Americans started a colonization program on Mindanao for foreign agricultural companies and Filipino Christian settlers against the native Muslims and non-Muslim Lumads of Mindanao, in order to secure the area with a Christian presence and help the American military assert control over the area once it was conquered.
Journalist Peter Kann has compared the American conquest of the west from the Native Americans to the Filipino conquest and settlement of Mindanao from the Muslims; the Philippine government, Philippine military and Filipino militias used extremely violent tactics against natives to support the settlers.
The government agencies involved in settlement on Mindanao were the National Land Settlement Administration (NLSA) and subsequently the Land Settlement and Development Corporation (LASEDECO), followed by the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA).
The Americans used their control over property and land laws to let American corporations and Filipino Christian settlers take over Lumad and Moro Muslim resources and land and depriving them of self-governance after eliminating the sovereignty of the Moro Sultanates, and ignoring Moro requests for their own independence, with the Philippine government continuing the colonization program after independence leading to a huge number of Filipino settlers streaming into Moro territories, and this led to Moros making moves for independence and armed struggle against the government of the Philippines.
After 1960 the settlement program turned the Moro Muslims into a minority from their previous majority in Mindanao, similar to what happened in the Indonesian Transmigration program where Javanese people in frontier areas settled with ethnic Madurese and Javanese people. The native Moros became victims to land grabs by Filipino Christian settlers.
Severe violence between native Muslims and Christian settlers erupted due to the influx of Christian colonists, companies and other entities seeking to exploit new land on Mindanao. Lumad and Muslim interests were ignored by the state-sponsored colonization program led by the National Land Settlement Administration (NLSA) which provided benefits for the colonists and made no consideration for the Muslims.
Private companies and Filipino colonists from the Visayas and Luzon took lands from Moro clans, with the Philippine government issuing land titles to settlers and ignoring Moro ownership of the land, declaring Moro lands to be public lands.
Land disputes between Christian settlers and Muslim and tribal natives eventually turned violent, and the colonization, along with the Jabidah massacre, led to the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front and Moro armed insurgency against Philippine rule.
The Philippine government encouraged Filipino Christian settlers in Mindanao to form militias called Ilaga (rat) to fight the Moros. The Ilaga engaged in massacres and atrocities and were responsible for the Manili massacre of 65 Moro Muslim civilians in a mosque in June 1971, including women and children. The Ilaga allegedly also engaged in cannibalism, cutting off the body parts of their victims to eat in rituals. Due to these and other actions, the Ilaga settlers were given the sarcastic acronym of the "Ilonggo Land Grabbers' Association".
The Moros were only incorporated into the Philippines by "conquest and colonization", constituting a separate nation from Filipinos analogous to the experience of Native Americans who violently resisted American conquest.
In 1969, the MNLF waged armed conflict against the Philippine government. During one of the fierce battles of the insurgency in 1974, Jolo was burned and news of the tragedy galvanized other Muslims around the world to pay greater attention to the conflict. Over 10,000 Moro and Chinese civilians were killed by the Philippine Armed Forces when they burned Jolo to the ground. Two years later, the Philippine government and the MNLF signed the Tripoli Agreement, declaring a ceasefire on both sides. 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. President Marcos later reneged on the agreement, and violence ensued.
Other massacres committed by the Philippine armed forces against Moro civilians include the November 1971 Tacub massacre, 1974 Malisbong massacre, October 1977 Patikul massacre, and February 1981 Pata Island massacre.
On 24 September 1974, in the Malisbong massacre the Armed Forces of the Philippines slaughtered about 1,500 Moro Muslim civilians who were praying at a mosque, in addition to mass raping Moro girls who had been taken aboard a boat.
In 1977, Sheikh Salamat Hashim established the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a splinter group of the MNLF seeking to establish an Islamic state. Conflicts between these rebel groups and the Armed Forces of the Philippines would continue until the end of President Marcos' regime.
On 15 September 2013, the New York Times published an article crediting every Philippine government for having struggled to bring peace to the Muslims of Mindanao since 1946 when it became independent, and claimed that it is the belief of the Muslims that they are being subjected to oppression and exploitation by the Christians that is the cause of the conflict. The newspaper also claimed that the conflict stretched back to 1899 when Moro insurrectionists were quelled by the American army. On 26 January 2014 the New York Times published another article claiming that "every Philippine government" has "struggled to bring peace to Mindanao" and claimed that reports of exploitation and oppression by the Filipino Christians originated from what Muslims say. The newspaper also praised President Benigno S. Aquino III's "landmark peace deal". The New York Times labelled Moro fighters as "Muslim-led groups" and as "violent". The New York Times blamed "Islamic extremist groups" for carrying out attacks in the Philippines. The New York Times editorial board endorsed Philippine President Benigno Aquino's planned peace deal and the passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law, blaming the Muslim insurgency for causing trouble to the "largely Catholic country". The New York Times claimed that Islamic militants were fighting the Philippine military.
The New York Times claimed the peace deal between the Philippines and MILF "seeks to bring prosperity to the restive south and weaken the appeal of the extremist groups", and linked the winding down of an American military counterterrorism operation to increased American military cooperation with the Philippines against China. The New York Times hailed Mr Aquino's peace agreement as an "accomplishment" as it reported on Aquino raising the alarm on China in the South China Sea. The New York Times editorial board published an article siding with the Philippines against China in the South China Sea dispute and supporting the Philippines' actions against China. The New York Times editorial board endorsed aggressive American military action against China in the South China Sea.
C. Aquino and Ramos (1986–1998)
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.
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.
During his term, President Joseph Ejercito Estrada declared an "all-out war" against the MILF on 21 March 2000, although a series of negotiations for cessation of hostilities were held. Apparently, several conflicts in and around Mindanao erupted and clashes between the Philippine Military and the rebel groups resulted in massive loss of life.
During Estrada's term, these rebel groups kidnapped three Italian priests, two of whom were later released and one was shot dead; seized the municipal hall of Talayan, Maguindanao and Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte; bombed the RORO ferry M/V Our Lady of Mediatrix at Ozamiz; and took over 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 fell. MILF suffered heavy losses and the head of MILF, Sheikh Salamat Hashim, fled the country and sought refuge in Malaysia. On 5 October 2000, 609 rebels surrendered in Cagayan de Oro, along with renegade town mayor Mulapandi Cosain Sarip. This was followed by another massive surrender of 855 rebels on 29 December 2000. President Estrada then ordered that the Philippine flag be raised in Mindanao, which symbolized victory. It was raised on 9 July 2000 near a Madh'hab and again the next day for President Estrada, who held a feast inside a classroom just meters away from a mosque.
As a result, several Islamic rebel groups retaliated, bombing several key locations within the National Capital Region on 30 December 2000, resulting 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 for Manila in May 2003. 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. al-Ghozi was also arrested, but was later killed in a firefight when he tried to escape the prison on 13 October 2003.
Macapagal Arroyo (2001–2010)
On 27 May 2001, the Abu Sayyaf seized twenty hostages from an upscale resort in Palawan. Four of the hostages managed to escape. 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 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.
There was a crossfire between the Army and the Abu Sayyaf rebels in Lamitan following the hospital takeover which resulted in the deaths of 12 soldiers, including the army captain. Up to 22 soldiers were reportedly 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 one beheading. The Abu Sayyaf then conducted a series of raids, including one at a coconut plantation where the rebel groups hacked the heads of two men using bolo knives. The owners and a security guard were also held captive and the rebel groups burned down two buildings, including a chapel, a week after the battle in Lamitan. Another raid was conducted on 2 August 2001 on Barangay Balobo in Lamitan, Basilan. After three days, the Philippine Army rescued numerous hostages after they overtook the hideout of the militants, where 11 bodies were found beheaded. Other hostages were either released or had escaped.
On 13 June 2001, the number of hostages was calculated at around 28, as three more people were found beheaded in Basilan, including Guillermo Sobero. They were beheaded since the Philippine Army would not halt the rescue operation.
The Burnhams were still in the group of 14 still held captive, according to three hostages who escaped in October 2001. On 7 June 2002, after a year of the hostages being held captive, a rescue mission was conducted resulting in the deaths of Martin Burnham and a nurse named Ediborah Yap after they were caught in the crossfire. Martin was killed by three gunshots to the chest while Gracia Burnham 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 in November 2001, ushering his exit as the governor of the region. Misuari would be later arrested in 2007 in Malaysia and was deported back to the Philippines for trial.
In July 2004, Gracia Burnham testified at a trial of eight Abu Sayyaf members, identifying six of the suspects as being her former 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.
These rebel groups, especially the Abu Sayyaf, conducted several terror attacks, namely the bombings at Zamboanga in October 2002; the bombing of SuperFerry 14 in February 2004; the simultaneous bombings in Central Mindanao in October 2006; the beheadings of several Philippine Marines in July 2007; the Batasang Pambansa bombing in November 2007; and the 2009 bombings in Mindanao.
One thousand MILF rebels under the command of Umbra Kato have seized control of thirty-five villages in the North Cotabato province. Two thousand Philippine troops with helicopters and artillery were sent into the seized area on 9 August to liberate it from the rebels. The MILF had wanted North Cotabato to be included in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. The government and MILF had been negotiating for the inclusion of the province in the Muslim Autonomous Region but the Supreme Court had struck down the proposal after hearing concerns from local Christian leaders in the region.
The rebel troops were ordered to leave the area by their commanders, but the contingents under Kato refused to leave the villages they had occupied and instead dug in. The Philippine Army responded on 9 August by bombarding them. The next day, the government forces moved to retake the villages, recapturing two of them from the rebels.
Since 2001, the Philippines and the United States have been part of a joint campaign to battle this insurgency, known as the War on Terror. To combat the insurgency, the United States and the Philippines conducted Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines, a part of the worldwide campaign against terrorism known as Operation Enduring Freedom.
B. Aquino (2010–16)
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. According to MNLF leader Nur Misuari, the MNLF offensive against the Abu Sayyaf is because of the MNLF opposition to the Abu Sayyaf's human rights abuses which go against Islam.
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. Norway also joined the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in January 2011, overseeing the ceasefire agreement between the government and MILF on Mindanao. Despite the peace talks, a series of conflicts erupted. On 10 September 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 The Armed Forces of the Philippines also killed three Abu Sayyaf militants in a stand-off the day after the arrest of Jal Idris.
Terrorism continued throughout President Benigno's term. Notable cases include when four merchants and a guide were killed by Abu Sayyaf bandits in January 2011. Later a soldier was killed in a clash against the rebels. In August 2011, rebel factions 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. Also, several areas of Mindanao were bombed in August by the government, and a Filipino businesswoman was abducted in September 2011, who was later freed after the three gunmen were gunned down by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
On 20 October 2011, the MILF was blamed for an attack on 40 government soldiers in the province of Basilan, which led to the deaths of 19 soldiers and 6 MILF fighters. This violated the ceasefire agreement between the government and MILF, which caused outrage in the government and led to the continuation of the war against terrorism in the country.
On the website of the Moro National Liberation Front, Nur Misuari declared his support for China against the Philippines, in the South China Sea dispute, calling both China and the Moro people victims of Philippine colonialism, and noting China's history of friendly relations with the Moros. The MNLF website also denounced America's assistance of the Philippines in their colonization of the Moro people in addition to denouncing the Philippines' claims to the islands disputed with China, and denouncing America for siding with the Philippines in the dispute, noting that in 1988 China "punished" Vietnam for attempting to set up a military presence on the disputed islands. The website also pointed out that the Moros and China maintained peaceful relations, while on the other hand the Moros had to resist other colonial powers, having to fight the Spanish, fight the Americans, and fight the Japanese, in addition to fighting the Philippines.
The Zamboanga City crisis erupted on 9 September 2013, when a MNLF faction known by other groups as the Rogue MNLF Elements (RME), under the Sulu State Revolutionary Command (SSRC), led by Ustadz Habier Malik and Khaid Ajibon attempted to raise the flag of the self-proclaimed Bangsamoro Republik at Zamboanga City Hall (which had earlier declared its independence on 12 August 2013 in Talipao, Sulu), and took civilians hostage. This armed incursion was met by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), which sought to free the hostages and expel the MNLF from the city. The standoff degenerated into urban warfare, and had brought parts of the city under a standstill for days. On 28 September, the government declared the end of military operations in Zamboanga City after successfully defeating the MNLF and rescuing all the hostages.
On 24 January 2014, the Philippines government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferer and MILF chief negotiator Murad Ebrahim signed a peace agreement in Kuala Lumpur. The agreement would pave the way for the creation of the new Muslim autonomous entity called "Bangsamoro" under a law to be approved by the Philippine Congress. The government aims to set up the region by 2016. The agreement calls for Muslim self-rule in parts of the southern Philippines in exchange for a deactivation of rebel forces by the MILF. MILF forces would turn over their firearms to a third party to be selected by the MILF and the Philippine government. A regional police force would be established, and the Philippine military would reduce the presence of troops and help disband private armies in the area.
On 23 July 2014, Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon swore loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a video, along with the rest of the organization, giving ISIL a presence in the Philippines. In September 2014, the group began kidnapping people to ransom, in the name of ISIL.
On 25 January 2015, Philippine National Police's SAF conducted an operation to capture Abdul Basit Usman and Marwan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. They were trapped between MILF's 105th Base Command, BIFF, and several armed groups. 44 SAF members were killed, but they were able to eliminate Marwan. American involvement resulted in caused massive blow back for the botched raid, putting a decisive halt to American plans for its Asia military "pivot" in the Philippines. Moros have reported that "4 caucasian-looking (American) soldiers" were killed in the Mamasapano clash along with the 44 Filipinos.
On February, the MILF and BIFF fought for territory in the boundaries of Maguindanao and North Cotabato.
In mid-February, the Philippine Army along with the Philippine Marines, declared a state of all-out war against the BIFF. MILF forces were pulled out to prevent them from falling victim to the fighting.
The Moro National Liberation Front published an open letter to the United States President Barack Hussein Obama and demanded to know why America is supporting what they described as Philippine colonialism against the Moro Muslim people and the Filipino "war of genocide" and atrocities against Moros, reminding Obama that the Moro people have resisted and fought against the atrocities of Filipino, Japanese, American, and Spanish invaders, and reminding Obama of past war crimes also committed by American troops against Moro women and children like the Moro Crater massacre at Bud Dajo.
The Moro National Liberation Front accused the Philippines, Japan, America, and Spain of conspiring against the Moros and recounted their invasions, imperialism, and atrocities against the Moros and demanded that they end the current colonization against the Moro people, the MNLF recounted that the Spanish were greedy colonizers, that the Americans committed massacres of Moro children and women at Mount Bagsak and Bud Dajo, and that the Japanese "exhibited tyranny, cruelty and inhumanity at its lowest level", and "had to suffer their worst defeat and highest death mortality at the hands of the Bangsamoro freedom fighters", demanding an apology from Japan for crimes committed against the Moros.
The Moro National Liberation Front questioned the humanity and morality of the Philippines, Japan, America, and Spain, noting that they have done nothing to end the colonialism and war inflicted upon the Moros and reminded them that they have resisted and fought against Japanese, American, and Spanish atrocities and war crimes while the Filipinos surrendered to the invaders, the MNLF brought up the massacre committed by American troops at Bud Dajo against Moro women and children and stated that compared to the Japanese casualty rate in the Visayas and Luzon, the amount of Japanese imperialists slaughtered by the Moro freedom fighters was greater by the thousands and that there was no capitulation like the "Fall of Bataan" to the Japanese by the Moros while the Luzon Filipinos submitted. The MNLF said that the Japanese, American, and Spanish cruelty has been continued by Filipino rule.
R. Duterte (2016–present)
- Spanish–Moro Wars
- Moros during World War II
- Moro Rebellion
- Moro attacks on Malaysia
- Peace process with the Bangsamoro in the Philippines
- History of the Philippines
- Terrorism in the Philippines
- Communist insurgency in the Philippines
- Extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances in the Philippines
- South Thailand insurgency
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Malaysia's Inspector-General of Police Norian Mai said Mr Misuari and six of his followers were arrested at 3.30 am on Saturday (1930 GMT Friday) on Jampiras island off Sabah state. Manila had ordered his arrest on charges of instigating a rebellion after the government suspended his governorship of an autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao, the ARMM. Although the Philippines has no extradition treaty with Malaysia, the authorities have already made clear that they intend to hand Mr Misuari over to the authorities in Manila as soon as possible. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had said before the arrest that, although his country had provided support to the rebel group in the past in its bid for autonomy, Mr Misuari had not used his powers correctly. "Therefore, we no longer feel responsible to provide him with any assistance," he said.
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Mustapha was directly implicated in the provision of training facilities for separatist Moro guerrillas as well harbouring Moro Muslim refugees in Sabah due to his ethnic connection.
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