January 4, 2004 | Bombing in southern Philippines kills 22

The Philippines has been the unwanted stage for many terrorist groups over the decades, including Islamist ones.

The Philippines has been the unwanted stage for many terrorist groups over the decades, including Islamist ones.

What goes into choosing a name for a terrorist group? If you are the head honcho you want your name to mean something, right? You want it to tell the world who you are, what you stand for, what matters to you. You want to ‘make a statement’.

Some names are bland and uninteresting. Al Qaeda (AQ) is a good example. It is an Arabic word which translates as something like ‘the Base’. Booooorrrriiinnnngggg! They need to find another PR person!

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Now THAT is a logo!

Others are much more evocative. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka are a good example. What more terrifying image can you come up with than a roaring tiger? The group’s logo reflected this.

Then there are those groups which really should have thought more carefully before choosing a name. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is one such organisation.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front
Not bad, but not as cool as the LTTE

The MILF – more on the acronym in a bit – was created way back in 1978 when it grew out of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which had begun peace talks with the Philippines government over what eventually became an autonomous Muslim-dominant region in the southern part of Mindinao.

Since that time the MILF is said to be responsible for many attacks and many deaths in the Philippines. One incident which it may have been behind was a bombing at a basketball game in Parang, a city in the province of Maguindanao. 22 people were killed and 71 wounded, including Mayor Vivencio Bataga, a retired Army colonel.

But back to that name.

If you google the term ‘MILF’ pages linked to terrorism will not come up in the first returns. Something very different will. MILF also means… well I will leave that to you to research. Let’s just say that it is an acronym for a certain sexual term.

I am pretty sure that the MILF terrorists either did not know that, did not care, or, as they are Islamist extremists, would retort that the more popular usage of their name is just one more sign of Western decadence and why they need to kill us all.

The bottom line is that Islamist terrorism is still very much an issue in the Philippines as are other groups, even Marxist (!) ones. Successive governments have tried a variety of approaches to deal with it, ranging from ‘peace’ talks to armed campaigns. It is clear that not much is working.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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