Moro National Liberation Front, The

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is a Moro political organization established in 1972 by Moro activist Nur Misuari, a leftist professor of Political Science at the University of Philippines, who sought a separate state comprised of Mindanao, Palawan island, and the Sulu Archipelago. The formation of the MNLF was in part prompted by Moro unrest against the imposition of martial law by Ferdinand Marcos and the subsequent emergence of the Muslim Independence Movement (MIM).

Militant action led by the MNLF militant wing—the Bangsa Moro Army—against Marcos met with initial successes (with the support of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddhafi), but Marcos was able to divide the MNLF opposition using intimidation and bribery, and a ceasefire was declared in 1976. In 1977, Misuari lost control over the MNLF and was replaced by Hashim Salamat. Nonetheless, in 1996 Misuari was elected governor of the autonomous region granted by President Fidel Ramos, who sought an end to MNLF guerrilla warfare tactics against the government. In return for political concessions, the Bangsa Moro Army was disbanded. Rival groups emerged, discontent with an agreement that granted limited autonomy, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) founded by Salamat, and the Bangsa Moro Liberation Organization (BMLO). The MILF in particular has criticized the MNLF for being too secular and failing to represent the Islamic component of Moro identity.

Following a failed reelection campaign in 2001, Misuari attempted to reignite MNLF militant activism but failed in the face of superior government forces. That year, he was arrested in Malaysia and extradited to the Philippines, where he was imprisoned on terrorism charges until 2008. In 2013 Misuari declared Moro independence from the Philippines and led the MNLF in a bloody three week siege against the southern city of Zamboanga, displacing over 100,000 residents. As of January 2014, Misuari is wanted by the government again on terrorism charges.


Thomas M. McKenna, Muslim Rulers and Rebels: Everyday Politics and Armed Separatism in the Southern Philippines (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).

“Thousands Flee Philippine Rebel Siege,” The Bangkok Post, September 11, 2013.