Backgrounder: Terrorism Havens: Philippines
Council on Foreign Relations
Author: Preeti Bhattacharji
Updated: June 30, 2008
The southern Philippines have long been a breeding ground for terrorist activity. Militant organizations like the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) operate in the Sulu archipelago and easternmost island of Mindanao, where a rugged terrain, weak rule of law, sense of grievance among the country's Muslim minority, and poverty make it difficult for the government to root them out. In recent years, the Philippine government has made significant progress in combating terrorism, due in part to counterterrorism aid provided by the United States. But experts are concerned by what appears to be increasing cooperation among the Abu Sayyaf Group, several major MILF commands, and elements of the Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah. Counterterrorism progress in the region remains difficult, and the Philippines remains vulnerable to penetration by extremist networks like al-Qaeda.
Are the Philippines a haven for terrorism?
The U.S. State Department has considered the southern Philippines a "terrorist safe haven" since the classification was created in 2006. According to the State Department's 2007 report, the Philippine government has little control in the Sulu archipelago and the island of Mindanao. The government has also had trouble combating resentment among the local Muslim minority regarding policies of the central government. As a result, the Philippines is home to a number of militant groups, including the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Communist Party of the Philippines/New Peoples Army, Jemaah Islamiyah, the Alex Boncayao Brigade, the Pentagon Gang, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). These groups have conducted over one-hundred attacks within the Philippines since 2004, the largest of which was a ferry bombing that killed 130 people.
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Copyright 2008 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.
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