Exploring February 2003 AFP Assault on MILF (Pt. I)
The Word Unheard is researching the recent World Tribune report (attributed to the Japanese paper Yomiuri Shimbun) that a November 2004 AFP raid on a MILF compound in Buliok netted documents detailing $2.2 million (USD) in arms orders and transactions.
A major operation was underway on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines to crush the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in February of 2003. While there is no shortage of information on the Philippine military operations against MILF in 2003, the Word Unheard has found one reference to date of 2003 arms transaction intelligence gathered in the same time frame.
On researching the operation taking place in 2003, interesting ancillary information was learned from a few sources.
From the CSIS Pacific Forum dated 2nd Quarter 2003:
At the same time, the U.S. ambassador held out the prospect of economic aid to MILF-dominated areas if the MILF "chooses to have peace in these areas …" A number of Philippine senators objected to the ambassador's statement, noting that it could pave the way for "full-scale U.S. involvement" in the government's war against the MILF. Nevertheless, the Arroyo government is laying the groundwork for a terrorist declaration against the MILF by revealing documents captured from the rebels' Buliok complex in February 2003 that belied the group's claim that it had no links with Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiyah, or al-Qaeda. Recovered documents, according to the Philippine government, also confirmed plans to conduct bombing operations throughout the south. The MILF responded to these revelations by warning the United States not to assist Philippine troops in their fight against the insurgents. So long as U.S. forces refrained from combat, the MILF would cause them no harm.
Interesting vagueness. How did the documents prove AS, JI and AQ links? Arms deals through trafficers known to deal with the other groups, too, maybe? Records of donations/contributions from the others? Will have to revisit that later as my own questions sound too familiar. An important detail.
In hindsight, the MILF warning to the US forces is comical. The AFP by itself is about to rout MILF and root them out of all their compounds and drive those that survive into the backwater marshes of Mindanao. Yet MILF warns in almost a cartoonish fashion, "You American Marines had better not bring your toys, or we will have to kill you. Stay on your ships and we will show you mercy."
From the International Committee to Ban Landmines (2003):
The MILF also signed on 20 September 2002 the “Implementing Guidelines for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Pursuant to its ‘Deed of Commitment under Geneva Call for the Adherence to a Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines and for Cooperation in Mine Action.’” In so doing the MILF committed to issue written orders and directives to its forces regarding the ban, to conduct information dissemination, and to introduce changes in the BIAF’s military doctrines. It also committed to conduct various mine and humanitarian education programs for its leadership and soldiers, as well as to impose disciplinary sanctions for violations.
According to AFP sources, the MILF has continued to use antipersonnel mines and IEDs, including mortar rounds captured from the AFP, equipped with blasting caps. They assert that the MILF plants these in areas near their former camps where AFP soldiers are expected to conduct clearing and pursuit operations. After the AFP launched a major offensive in February 2003 against the MILF Buliok camp complex in the adjoining provinces of North Cotabato and Maguindanao in Central Mindanao, the MILF apparently utilized mines in retaliatory actions.
From March to April 2003, the 6th Infantry Division in Maguindanao reported four separate landmine explosions in the vicinity of two former MILF camps: two occurred on 15 March in Camp Abubakar, Barira, Maguindanao; the other two on 22 April, in the Pagalungan, Maguindanao side of the former MILF Buliok stronghold and in the Pikit, North Cotabato part of the Buliok complex.
The Anti-Landmine issue is not of particular interest here. However, it is interesting that MILF is regarded as a viable enough entity to accept signatures from. Amusing that these signatures are valued any more than frozen salt water. Unsurprising that after the Islamic Militant MILF swears to 'play nice', nothing changes. Did anyone seriously expect otherwise?
The Philippine government was involved in 'Peace Talks' with these animals in this time frame. In the next update, we will learn just how much regard MILF gave to the resultant peace talks, agreements and their own signatures.