Philippines: War Weariness

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August 29, 2007: An Abu Sayyaf operative was arrested as he tried to enter the capital with two explosive devices. Abu Sayyaf leaders have apparently ordered their followers to attempt a bombing campaign in the capital, in an attempt to persuade the government to ease off on Basilan and Jolo. Abu Sayyaf may have more success with church and leftist groups, who are calling for the military operations against Abu Sayyaf to be halted, and replaced with police investigations and negotiations. This ignores the fact that both have been tried, and failed. Abu Sayyaf operates in large groups on Basilan and Jolo, where police are driven off or intimidated if there are any attempts to investigate or arrest Abu Sayyaf members. However, the media is taking advantage of the length of the campaign, as well as the high casualties, and demanding that the military admit they are screwing up. That makes a great headline. The generals point out the long history similar campaigns against violent Moslem groups in the south, but that sort of thing doesn't sell newspapers. Even less likely to please the media is the military plan to send engineering and civil affairs units to Basilan and Jolo, to build infrastructure and try to win over more of the locals. While the Moslems on those two islands back Abu Sayyaf, there is a growing war weariness, and unwillingness to risk themselves to support the Islamic militants.

Peace negotiations with Communist NPA rebels hit a rough patch when the head of the Philippines Communist Party was arrested in the Netherlands (for ordering the murder of two rivals in the Philippines.) The Filipino government has long complained of Europeans governments providing asylum and support (welfare payments) for communist rebels. The leadership of the NPA has basically used the Netherlands as a base for years. But now that the NPA has been declared a terrorist organization, the Dutch are taking a closer look at some of their political asylum guests.

 

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