A few months ago, I was in Albania watching the Street Food Guy tuck into a fresh cut lambs head complete with eyeballs. Naturally, the conversation soon turned onto Filipino terrorist groups… Street Food Guy asked me if I’d ever heard of a group called the MILF, refusing to believe they existed until Google confirmed it, I was proved wrong. Today, we’re going to look into the wild world of MILF

MILF Logo

MILF, among other things, stands for The Moro Islamic Liberation Front and is based in Mindanao, Philippines and aims at carving out an autonomous region of the Moro People from the Central government of the Philippines. They originally formed in the late sixties as MNLF, which stood for The Moro National Liberation Front. In order to achieve their aims, they used their armed front, MILF, and began launching terror attacks and assassinations.

In response to the growing violence, the central government hit back and launched a counter-insurgency in the Southern Philippines to crush the group. Into the fray stepped an unlikely character: Muammar Gaddafi. In 1976, General Gaddafi brokered a peace agreement between the two sides which granted the MNLF semi-autonomy from the government of the Philippines.

MILF checkpoint

Despite this peace agreement leading to the establishment of Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao a few years later, it was not popular throughout the MNLF group and before long a major split occurred in the groups’ leadership which subsequently led to the armed MILF breaking away to do their own thing. The group was strongly backed by Gaddafi and even Osama Bin Laden.

In the years to come, the MILF would continue to launch grueling terror attacks across the Philipines despite multiple peace talks with the central government which all failed to hold. In some confrontations between the MILF and government troops, heavy artillery was needed to engage the MILF fighters.

In Maguindanao Province during the summer of 2006, large scale conflict broke out between MILF fighters and armed civilian militias supported by the army of the Philipines. Four thousand families were displaced by the fighting and hundreds killed.

Muslim Terrorists Praying

During another period of aggression, the Philippine government responded to MILF and launched another counter-offensive with the deployment of thousands of troops in Mindanao. The ensuing violence displaced over 600,000 people and left 300 dead.

In 2014, a peace agreement was reached between the MILF and the central government. The peace deal agreed upon the creation of a new Muslim autonomous entity called “Bangsamoro” in exchange for the disarmament of MILF forces. A regional police force would be set up and Philippine troops will reduce their presence. A mainly Catholic country, this was a critical step to stop the violent rebellion in the Muslim South and the deal was signed by President Duterte

MILF Peace Deal

By early 2020, the deal showed signs of significant progress when it was reported that out of 12,000 MILF fighters, almost 9,000 had handed in their weapons. Many former MILF combatants have gone on to join the regional police until the region elects it’s own government in 2022.

For more groundbreaking articles on terrorism around the world, check out our Terrorism Department. For more on the ground reportage from the Philippines, check out The Street Food Guy!

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Batya (Батя) is the founder of Reaper Feed. He is a security advisor and a high-risk expedition leader across former and active conflict zones such as Eastern Ukraine, unrecognized post-Soviet states, the North Caucasus, and the Middle East. Batya founded Reaper Feed to provide unprecedented insight into the lesser-seen sides of human conflict and modern warfare.