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PIA Press Release

Commentary: Reaping a bitter harvest in Mindanao

General Santos City (2 February) -- They arrived in the Southern Philippines over a decade ago. And the entire country is still suffering the consequences. The painful consequences are not limited to the government or the Catholic majority. The Moros, the Muslims who make up 5 percent of the Philippine population, are also suffering from the decade-old invasion.

"They" are the extremists from Jemaah Islamiyah, the regional terror group based in Indonesia. When the JI jihadists first sought Moro support they had not yet achieved global notoriety. That would come in 2002, when they blew up resorts in Bali and killed more than 200 people.

But the JI impact would soon be felt in the Philippines, as well. The Indonesian militants befriended some members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Although the MILF leadership has denounced the JI and terrorism in general, the foreign interlopers managed to radicalize some MILF cadres. Those cadres provided the foreigners with sanctuary in the marshes of Mindanao. In return, the JI terrorists provided their hosts and other extremist elements with training - in bomb-making, urban warfare and other violent arts.

Who knows how many Philippine bombings in recent years trace back to that training? Police see JI's "signature" in three recent bomb plots in the Mindanao province of Sultan Kudarat. One of those explosives went off in early September. There were no injuries, only because the bomb detonated prematurely. Police found and defused the other two bombs, planted outside a Tacurong City clinic, before they could do harm.

JI infiltration is also a factor in the current upheaval involving MILF renegades. The two MILF commanders who started the latest eruption of violence in the south have long-standing ties to JI. On that fact, impartial observers - like the International Crisis Group, a Brussels think tank -- agree.

It was those two renegades, Commanders Bravo and Kato, who sabotaged the peace process by raiding Christian and mixed Muslim-Christian villages in Mindanao in August. Borrowing from JI savagery, the rogue MILF units killed 50 civilians, burned down houses, looted businesses and left untold numbers of civilians without a livelihood. The government dispatched troops to the troubled region and engaged MILF fighters. Half a million Filipinos, many of them Muslims, have been displaced by the fighting.

The MILF leadership has distanced itself from the renegade commanders. But it refuses to hand them over to the government - just as the Moros have failed to eject the JI instigators in the first place. (MW/PIA SarGen) [top]

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