Commentary: Beware those who lurk in the shadows
General Santos City (16 February) -- No one loves armed conflict more than terrorists, whose bread and butter are chaos and fear, so our local brand of thugs must be feeling especially good lately. In Mindanao the government is sending thousands of troops into territory where the enemy retains a great deal of popular support. This action was prompted by breakout attacks of several renegade commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that resulted in killings of innocent civilians and lootings of their property.
The terrorists must be gleefully counting the perceived advantages of the combat. First, the effort of the GRP against the MILF diverts attention and resources away from the military's efforts to kill or capture the terrorists themselves. Second, military action inevitably produces death, injury and loss to innocent civilians, a "collateral damage" that creates resentment, hatred and often a strong desire for vengeance. Third, it gives the terrorists a renewed sense of purpose as well as a reinvigorated claim for support from the afflicted population. It gives them a stronger, more motivated base from which to recruit.
In short, the worse things get in Mindanao, the better it will be for the terrorists.
Who are these terrorists? They're the same old gang: the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the Jemaah Islamiyah and the Raja Solaiman Movement, as well as several other, lesser groups. Fighters thought to be ASG ambushed a marine unit in Sulu late last month, resulting in four dead and 10 wounded. The operation occurred far away from the current combat zone, but its timing appears to make the statement, "We are still here, friends, and fighting the same enemy as you."
Then there were the bombings in Iligan City, which is predominantly Christian, on 17 August. It was classic Jemaah Islamiyah: Bombs were exploded in two hotels almost simultaneously. No one has claimed responsibility for these bombings and several others that occurred the previous week, but fingers are pointing at the MILF. It may well have been elements of the MILF, but who trained them in explosives in the first place?
A few days later, a fragmentation grenade exploded near a hotel in Zamboanga City, the site of a previous ASG bombing. No one has claimed responsibility for that attack, either.
Responsibility or not, the evidence is clear. The terrorists are lurking in the shadows of the conflict. They will never negotiate for peace, because peace is what they fear the most. Instead, they will do all that they can to foment violence and hatred -- after all, it is their bread and butter. That is why the government and the MILF must get back to the negotiating table -- because otherwise those who operate in the shadows will prevail. (MW/PIA-SarGen) [top]