Sep 152014
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2005-02-09 23:32
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000630



E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/09/2015

¶B. MANILA 5943
¶C. MANILA 5628

Classified By: Political Officer Joseph Saus
for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (U) This is a corrected copy of Manila 621. The Summary
reported incorrectly that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
(MILF) was involved in the recent clashes. The Summary
should read that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)
was involved, as is indicated below. The body of Manila 621
correctly reported the involvement of MNLF forces.


¶2. (C) Scattered armed clashes between armed gunmen (a
combined force of Nur Misuari loyalists, Abu Sayyaf Group,
and Moro National Liberation Front fighters) and the Armed
Forces of the Philippines (AFP) over the past two days killed
at least 30 militants and 21 government troops on Jolo Island
in the southern Philippine Province of Sulu. Despite calls
for calm from Sulu,s governor, fighting continues in several
locations on Jolo Island, with the AFP calling for troop
reinforcements and utilizing air and artillery strikes
against rebel formations. As many as 2,900 AFP troops are
currently in Sulu Province. Given the significant losses on
the military side, the AFP is determined to finish off the
rebels, although such search and destroy operations rarely
are successful in the thick, forested mountains of Jolo. End

State of Play

¶3. (SBU) Armed clashes escalated since February 7 in several
small towns on Jolo Island, resulting in significant
casualties for both the AFP and a combined force of gunmen.
Various press reports suggest at many as 30 gunmen and 21
government troops were killed. According to Don Loong, the
provincial administrator and nephew of Governor Benjamin
Loong, the provincial capital, Jolo Town, is calm. Most of
the fighting is in the smaller and scattered hamlets of
Parang, Panamao, Patikul, and Maimbung. (Note: Sulu Province
consists of several islands, Jolo being the largest. The
province is about 590 miles south of Manila. End Note.)

¶3. (C) Media reports and Embassy contacts assert that
loyalists of Nur Misuari — known as the Misuari Renegade
Group (MRG) — undertook the offensive to gain his release.
(Note: Nur Misuari is the former Moro National Liberation
Front (MNLF) leader and Governor of the Autonomous Region In
Muslim Mindanao. He is in detention near Manila awaiting
trial for inciting his followers to attack Jolo Town in 2001
leaving over 100 soldiers, rebels, and locals dead. End
Note.) Don Loong provided Poloff further context February 8,
stating the incident grew from an AFP operation last week to
confiscate firearms at a house between Parang and Maimbung.
An ensuing firefight (cause unknown) left the home owner, his
wife, and daughter dead. Loong said the death of the woman
and child infuriated locals in Sulu and brought several armed
rebel elements together in a loosely-banded-together tactical
alliance. According to military contacts, on February 7, 500
members of the MRG, the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group, and MNLF
remnants attacked units of the 35th Infantry Battalion near
Panamao, and later attacked a reinforcing platoon near

GRP Downplaying The Damage

¶4. (C) At a February 9 meeting with President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo, Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, and
visiting Commander, US Pacific Command ADM Thomas Fargo, AFP
Chief General Efren Abu told POLCOUNS the operations in Jolo
are going smoothly. President Arroyo considered the incident
a marginal issue, providing the AFP an opportunity to further
degrade the MRG and ASG.

What,s Next

¶5. (SBU) Lt. Gen. Alberto Braganza, Chief of AFP Southern
Command, ordered artillery and air strikes on February 8
using OV-10s and MG-520 helicopter gunships against enemy
units. As of February 8, a Marine Battalion Landing Team
(300-600 troops) was enroute to Jolo Island from Zamboanga
City. According to military contacts there are two Army
Battalions and two Marine Battalions, totaling around 2,900
troops, currently deployed to Sulu Province. Governor Loong
is working to maintain calm and provide for civilians
displaced by the fighting. On February 9, he convened the
Provincial Peace and Order Council with the mayor of Jolo and
other affected towns to discuss the prospects of an
immediate, mutual cease-fire. (Note: Once AFP reinforcements
arrive, the pitched gun battles in semi-populated areas will
likely end, allowing the AFP to bombard suspected enemy
positions or pursue enemy forces with ground units. End

Comment: Mountain Fighting A Tough Slog

¶6. (C) The AFP lost a sizeable number of troops in these
incidents. Braganza commented publicly, &They (the
militants) have asked for it and we,ll give it to them,8
indicating his serious intent to pursue them. The militants,
taking advantage of their familiarity with the local terrain,
have a well-developed track record of successfully evading
AFP pursuit and bombing operations. We do not expect
Braganza,s pursuit of around &500 armed men holding out in
the mountains8 will end either quickly or cleanly. End



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