Forty-fifth edition of the N&O column / Spooks newsletter

(Date: Sat, 02 Feb 2002 11:46:09 +0100)

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MILF - Moro islamic liberation front

The following appeared originally in WUN vol.6 #3 and #5

« Philippines - Military sends 2,000 more troops against southern rebels.
The Philippine military deployed 2,000 more troops Friday in a southern province following an offensive by Muslim separatists that left at least 28 people dead and 29 others wounded, officials said. A shaky calm prevailed Friday in three towns in the province of Lanao del Norte as three battalions of army soldiers and a battalion of marines arrived to bolster the 500-strong security force already arrayed against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels. On Thursday, 15 rebels were killed.............. »

The above was taken from a report from AFP on 17 March 2000. MILF is still very active in the southern part of the Philippines, and is hotter then ever now reports allegedly link them with Osama Bin Laden. Military intelligence officials claim that at least eighteen MILF members have trained for handling explosives in Afghanistan. As you may expect, MILF officials deny Al Qaeda connections.

MILF communications have been heard on shortwave by various dxers from Australasia. One of these dxers suggested an article about the MILF, so here we go...

Who, what, where and why?

The MILF is an Islamic liberation movement in the Bangsamoro homeland in Mindanao and the neighbouring islands. The Moroland (now known as "Southern Philippines") is composed of Mindanao island (the second largest island of the Philippine islands) Palawan, Basilan, the Sulu archipelago, and the neighbouring islands. The demand of the MILF is no less than an independent Moro Islamic State and until this is accomplished the Moro Jihad will continue.

The Philippines has had a long history of Moro rebellion during the past 445 years. Resistance to colonization was especially strong among the Muslim population of the Sulu Archipelago and southwestern Mindanao. Spanish control (1521-1898) over the Moros was never complete, and the Muslim struggle continued in the United States colonial era (1898-1946). The then following period until 1970, was relatively quiet but the Muslims never really accepted Manila as governor over the Moros which lead to a widespread conflict in the 1970s. Although the jihad is still going on, it is not as fierce as in the period 1970-1983.

The MILF was formed in 1977 when Hashim Salamat, supported by ethnic Maguindanaos from Mindanao, split from the Moro National Liberation Front MNLF). The military strength of the MILF is unknown to me. The numbers from various sources differ too much to be reliable. Numbers given by Islamic sources are quite impressive:

Other sources state that the MILF forces declined from over 30000 in the mid-70s to some 15000 now.

The MILF on shortwave

Although not as frequent as in the past, the MILF are still using HF communications. Until 1997 their transmissions were regularly logged but the MILF is modernizing and they are gradually switching over to GSM and computerized communications via satellite.

Modes : USB and ARQ (mainly ARQ)
Callsign : Liberator
Frequencies : 7926.7, 7946.7, 7961.7, 7971.7, 11146.7 kHz
Language : American English (lots of military jargon)


Sitor is used between Sandakan and Camp Abu Bhakar. Frequencies are between 6 and 9 MHz. They use 150 Watts amateur mobile transceivers and it is very unlikely that one can receive these weak signals here in Europe. Their communication procedures are quite good and they are well aware of the fact that HF is cheaper than satellite but they use both and cellular as well. The location of Camp Abu Bhakar is precisely known however the Bladigarmen forces cannot attack them because MILF and Moro are too strong. Sandakan is their main logistics port for arms supply and the place has become very dangerous with too many illegal and/or criminal Philippine immigrants around town and on the coastline. The new road between Kuala Kinabalu and Sandakan is used for illegal arms transports from the illegal Philippine immigrants detention camp in Kuala Kinabalu, and Polis Sabah is unable or unwilling to stop the trade. The second logistics port is Tawau and there you have the Indonesians as well. They collect money for the fighting of the local people around Samarinda and Pontianak against the "transmigrasi" people from Java and Madura in particular. There are dozens of illegal boat trips daily between Tawau and Tarakan for arms and people (prostitutes) trade. Arrangements here are made via cellular radio. The situation in Indonesia has become so bad that the people from Kuching go shopping there on the weekend (the border is just 40 km away) and now there are three shopping flights per week to Pontianak. To fight the illegal immigrants there are roadblocks all around Kuching.

If you live in the region and hear these stations, please send us your logs.

Sources: newspaper articles and websites of FAS, Nida'ul Islam magazine, AFP, Newsboy's Newsroom, Library of Congress' Country Studies, Real World Rescue, Joerg Klingenfuss, Charles Chenery,, and of course the WUN archive.

Voice stations | Morse stations | Other modes
Clandestine activity survey | Arabic aero | Moro islamic front
Intelligence news | Al Qaeda training manual | Logs
Index | NS NL Home