News / Asia

Philippines Muslim Rebel Chief Pursuing Peace After Decades of War

Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front, walks with his security group before the start of anews conference inside their camp at Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao province, southern Philippines, September 5, 2011. Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front, walks with his security group before the start of anews conference inside their camp at Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao province, southern Philippines, September 5, 2011.
x
Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front, walks with his security group before the start of anews conference inside their camp at Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao province, southern Philippines, September 5, 2011.
Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front, walks with his security group before the start of anews conference inside their camp at Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao province, southern Philippines, September 5, 2011.
TEXT SIZE - +
Simone Orendain
— In October, the leader of the Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group signed a preliminary peace accord with the government, aimed at ending decades of war that have killed some 120,000 people.

When Murad Ebrahim was 21, he quit school and joined Muslim rebels fighting against the government.  His older brother, then his guardian, was not happy with the decision, Murad tells VOA.

“I feel the necessity at that time, that maybe what came into mind is schooling can wait, but this situation cannot wait," he said. "So I had to decide on that, a very hard decision.”

Despite only being months away from completing a civil engineering degree, Murad took up arms in 1969, motivated by the reported killing of more than a dozen Muslim military recruits by Christian officers.

He joined the Moro National Liberation Front, which battled the military in the south and was accused of carrying out terrorist attacks and assassinations as part of its separatist campaign.

Speaking in the boardroom of the rebels’ committee office in Mindanao, the 64-year-old says in a few years he rose up the ranks.

“I was designated as zone commander.  This zone commander embraces part of Maguindanao and Lanao and after one year I became commander of the entire Cotabato region," explained Murad. "So, under the MNLF I was the overall military commander.”

In 1977, Murad’s group split from the MNLF and later formed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which would become the country’s biggest rebel group.

Using experience he gained while fighting alongside Osama bin Laden in the Afghan war with the Soviet Union in the 1980’s, Murad shaped the MILF into a more disciplined force, with modern, powerful weapons.

“He was known to be a very good military tactician.  That earned him a lot of respect from many Bangsamoro rebels,” said Rommel Banlaoi, head of research with the Philippine Institute on Peace Violence and Terror.

During the 1990s and 2000s, Murad’s forces fought fierce battles against the Philippine military and were also accused of terrorist attacks including deadly bombings of shopping malls and airports.

The group publicly disavowed terrorism and were never listed by the United States as a terrorist group. But they allowed terror groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah to operate bases and training camps in territory they controlled in Mindanao.  They are also accused of links to Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group active in the southern Philippines notorious for bombings and kidnappings. Murad denies there are any ties.  

Steven Rood of the Asia Foundation says Murad still needs to demonstrate a wiliness to cooperate with government counterterrorism efforts.

“By now there are basically no terrorists being harbored in mainline MILF camps," said Rood. "They’ve all been shooed away.  But the government’s point would be, ‘If they’ve been shooed away, you knew where they were and you could have helped us get them.”

Although the Mindanao rebel groups and the government have decades of failed peace talks, there is hope that the latest agreement may succeed because of Murad’s influence and skill as a negotiator with other insurgent groups.

“He was projected as a peace champion now with the framework agreement signed… I think he has the best opportunity to lead not only the transition of the MILF but also the Bangsamoro,” said Rodolfo Mendoza, a retired police general.

Bangsamoro, which means Muslim nation, is a term coined by the rebels to describe themselves and all natives of the lands they claim as their own. Murad says the goal has always been the authority to rule themselves.

“But even [when] we go for armed struggle, at the very start we are already open for negotiation because we believe this is a political problem.  And, the solution is still political,” said Murad.

The recently signed peace “framework” opens the door to such a solution by allowing the Bangsamoro to generate their own revenues, exploit natural resources and form a ministerial government. Murad says he hopes the two sides can finalize the deal by 2016.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid