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Moro Islamic Liberation Front

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is an active Islamic movement in the Southern Philippines. The area is called by the MILF Bangsamoro and covers Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago, Palawan, Basilan and the neighbouring islands - around one third of the Philippines in total. 12 million Muslims live within this area and 8 million others.

Muslim agitation in the Philippines is the result of generational divisions. Many younger Muslims wanted a more modern Islamic society. The reformers were themselves split between moderates, working within the system, and militants, engaging in guerrilla-style warfare.

Radical Muslims within Moroland consider themselves to be taking part in a jihad against the Manila government, a continuation of a struggle dating back to the Spanish arrival in 1521. The government is accused of running a settlement program to bring in Christians and remove Muslims from local government posts, it has also been accused of genocide against the Moro Muslims.

Resistance to the Philippines government was first centred around the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), formed in the late 1960s following the Jabidah Massacre. The group demanded the formation of a independent Moro Islamic state and took part in terrorist attacks and assassinations to promote their ideas. The central government rejected this demand and sent troops into Moroland to maintain order. The MILF was formed in 1977 when Salamat Hashim split from the MNLF which had become more moderate.

In January 1987, the MNLF accepting the government's offer of semi-autonomy. The MILF refused to accept the offer. The MILF became the largest separatist group in the Philippines. A general cessation of hostilities was signed in July 1997 but this agreement was broken in 2000 by the government of Joseph Estrada. The MILF initially declared a jihad but became more receptive, especially following claims it is linked to the Abu Sayyaf and al Qaeda. A ceasefire accord was signed with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The MILF is believed to have over 15,000 members. The group itself claimed a peak strength of almost 90,000 "well-armed" men (1998).

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