The Moro War

Philippine soldiers during the battle of Marawi


The Moro insurgency in the Philippines dates back to the American and Spanish occupation of the Philippines. The Moro are a Muslim ethnic group in the Philippines. After America failed to give the Philippines its independence after it was taken from Spain, the Moro rose up in 1899. The Americans made attempts to Christianize the Moro but it only increased the rebellion. The Moro rebellion continued until the Japanese invaded and captured the Philippines in 1941. Moro groups then began fighting the Japanese occupation.

At the end of World War Two, the Philippines was given independence. However the Moro still felt oppressed and without a voice in the christinized Philippines. The Moro continued to push for regional autonomy however it was not through an armed rebellion.

In 1968, the Philippines had a territorial dispute with Malaysia over the Sabah state. The Philippine military began training Moro soldiers for operation Merdeka, which was to be a sabotage mission in Sabah. While training, the Moro felt as they were being mistreated by the Philippine military, and the Moro mutinied. Fearing a rebellion, the Moro were massacred by their Philipine trainers. 11 to 68 Moro were killed. The number remains unclear.

In response to the killing the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was formed in 1972. MNLF wanted a Moro state through the use of armed fighting. Fighting between the Philippine government and MNLF started in 1974. The Philippine government used scorched earth tactics. The Philippine military also partook in a massacre that killed 1000 to 1500 Moro civilians.

Fighting between the Philippine military and Moro groups lasted until 2014 when a peace deal was made. Moro militia groups would disarm in exchange for more self rule.

Even though a peace deal has been between the Moro and Philippine government have been reached, more radical groups began to emerge in 2014. Groups such as BIFF, JI, Abu Sayyaf, and Maute have ties to ISIL and wants a fully independent Moro state rather than the autonomy received from the 2014 peace deal. In 2017, the Maute grouped launched an attack on the city of Marawi with over 1000 militants. The battle of Marawi lasted 5 months and resulted in the deaths of 168 Philippine soldiers and 978 militans.

The battle of Marawi was the last major attack by Moro groups. However with the new radical Moro groups that began to emerge in 2014, are likely to continue launching major attacks.

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