Sep 152014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2005/02/05MANILA682.html#

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA682
2005-02-11 08:15
2011-08-30 01:44
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Manila

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000682

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/PMBS, INR/EAP, USIP-SOLOMON
NSC FOR GREEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER PINS PREL MOPS RP
SUBJECT: MILF DISTANCES SELF FROM JOLO FIGHTING AS
CASUALTIES MOUNT

REF: MANILA 630

¶1. (SBU) Summary. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)
has clearly distanced itself from the ongoing fighting in
Sulu Province and has now offered to broker a cease-fire.
The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leadership has also
called for restraint, as fighting stretched into the fifth
day, with more than 100 militants and government troops
reportedly dead. According to the Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP) and media accounts, an AFP battalion
commander was killed by mortar attack and the fighting has so
far displaced around 3,000 people. Observers have noted that
Nur Misuari, whose continued incarceration is at the center
of the fighting, could provide a calming effect on the
militants. The AFP has vowed that the enemy forces face
“surrender or nothing.” End Summary.

MILF not a party to the fight
—————————–

¶2. (SBU) The MILF, in a February 11 press statement,
offered to broker a cease-fire in the ongoing hostilities in
Sulu Province (Jolo Island). Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF,s
Vice Chairman for Information Affairs, further called for a
cessation of further offensive actions, while citing the
MILF,s “modest capacity” to broker a cease-fire by using its
contacts with the GRP and its “open line with (their)
brothers in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).” The
MILF spokesman told the media that all MILF troops in Sulu
are “under orders . . . to observe the existing cease-fire
agreement with the government,” further clarifying remarks
earlier this week that the ongoing fighting had nothing to do
with the MILF.

¶3. (SBU) Separately, MNLF Secretary General Istad Mushiri
has called for self-restraint, while nonetheless rejecting
the AFP,s call for surrender. He stressed that the Misuari
loyalists — known as the Misuari Renegade Group (MRG) or the
Misuari Breakaway Group (MBG) — are fighting for a “just
cause” (reftel). However, Mushiri denied publicly that the
Misuari loyalists are fighting alongside the terrorist Abu
Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Death Toll Mounts
—————–

¶4. (SBU) Fighting continued February 10 and 11 in several
hamlets on Jolo Island, and officials on the ground and in
the AFP assessed the prospects for an imminent cease-fire as
bleak. Over 100 militants and government troops have been
killed in the fighting so far. The AFP lost a battalion
commander (a lieutenant colonel) in a mortar attack on
February 10. Embassy contacts in Jolo noted that the
situation remains “tense.” The AFP continues to soften enemy
targets with air and artillery strikes, and commanders in the
field reported the capture of some enemy strongholds. Chief
of AFP SouthCom, Lt Gen Alberto Braganza, told the press,
“It’s either surrender or nothing.”

¶5. (SBU) Officials and visitors in Jolo have estimated at
least 3,000 internally displaced persons, all of whom have
apparently gone to live with relatives or friends outside the
combat areas. As far as Embassy can determine, there is so
far no official GRP or NGO assistance available for these
IDPs. Visitors have praised a helpful role played here by
the Philippine National Police (PNP), most of whom are
locals. A small minority of AFP units involved in the
fighting are from the MNLF forces who joined the AFP after
the 1996 MNLF/GRP peace accord, but most come from outside
Sulu province, and few even of the Muslim troops are ethnic
Tausug (the local majority).

Misuari,s Central Role
———————-

¶6. (SBU) The role of detained former MNLF Chairman Nur
Misuari (controversial one-time governor of the Autonomous
Region in Muslim Mindanao, arrested in 2002 after trying to
lead a rebellion against the government) remains shadowy but
central. There are no indications that he explicitly incited
the hostilities, although many of his loyalists under arms
have specifically demanded his speedy trial or release on
bail. The GRP has not indicated when his trial — still
subject to vague legal and bureaucratic delays — will move
forward. Current ARMM Governor Parouk Hussin, who visited
Jolo on February 11, has also called for an expeditious trial
for Misuari. Civil society contacts have emphasized that
Misuari could help rein in his followers, by publicly asking
his followers to lay down their arms, but that he has so far
not done so.

¶7. (SBU) Comment: The militants remain a formidable and
lethal adversary, although but time likely is not on their
side, given their diminishing stocks of ammunition, superior
numbers of the AFP forces, and apparent war weariness of the
local population.
Ricciardone

   

 

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