Conflict & Justice

Philippines president meets insurgency leader in airport hotel


Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the Muslim separatists Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) inspects his troops at the rebels' base in Camp Darapanan in Maguindanao province located in southern Philippine island of Mindanao. After more than 30 years of insurgency to set up an Islamic state in the largely Roman Catholic Philippines, Murad and his 12,000 fighters are ready for peace talks with the government.



It isn't often that a nation's president sits down face-to-face with the boss of a violent insurgency.

But Philippines president Benigno Aquino has done just that. At a hotel near Tokyo's main airport, the president met with the chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an Islamic guerilla movement whose fight for a Muslim state has left 120,000 dead in the last three decades.

The president and the insurgency leader, Murad Ibrahim, had "fruitful" talks, according to other insurgent captains, reports the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Just last year, the guerilla movement announced it would settle for quasi-autonomy similar to a U.S. state instead of full-on independence.

But are Filipinos comfortable with their most powerful official legitimizing the Islamic rebellion?

According to the Inquirer, one diplomat has called it an "act of treason" and an editorial says such secret meetings and pacts are a "stab in the back."

In the last three decades, the insurgent movement has sheltered and helped train al-Qaeda members and carried out ambushes and beheadings in Philippines' Mindinao region. But the rebels have also, for the past 14 years, engaged in off-and-on peace talks with the government.