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Jemaah Islamiyah: Obstacle to Peace in Mindanao

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Peace in Mindanao is proving an elusive goal at best.  Although the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) professes to desire peace and a homeland for Philippine Muslims, the group continues to support and shelter al-Qaeda-affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorists who have perpetrated attacks on civilians throughout the region, either directly or through surrogate rebel groups

As might be expected, the MILF has consistently denied any relationship with JI, but such denials are refuted by considerable evidence to the contrary.  Foreign intelligence networks have confirmed the MILF’s sheltering of JI, including some of its top militants.  Further, confessions of captured Indonesian rebels in the Philippines attest to JI’s presence with the MILF.  Continued harboring of JI militants by the MILF could derail the peace process.  The only admission so far from the MILF has been that JI terrorists may have been given sanctuary by breakaway elements of the MILF, hardly a credible excuse. 

The peace talks between the Philippine government (GRP) and the MILF have been the pretext for additional violence instigated by two rogue MILF senior commanders in Mindanao.  The forces of Umbra Kato and Abdurahman Macapaar, known as Commander Bravo, are currently the targets of a large-scale military offensive.  Not surprising, a report by the International Crisis Group in early 2008 said Kato’s ties to JI and other terrorist groups were “well documented.”  Analysts suspect that Kato and Bravo could seek support from JI militants, who wish to establish a stronger presence in Mindanao.

As JI continues its efforts to incite radical MILF elements to perpetrate even more violence, an enormous humanitarian crisis is emerging for those caught in the crossfire. 

No doubt solutions to the current problems in Mindanao, of which JI and elements of the MILF form a significant part, will not come easily.  The news that violence in the south has been significantly reduced by military efforts to hunt down hard-line MILF units responsible for raids is encouraging. 

We can restart the dialogue when the area is secure, when our people are safe and responsible elements of the MILF regain control.  The next move would seem to belong to the MILF.

By Menardo Wenceslao




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