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Criminal activities funding MILF?

MANILA, Philippines - Drug trafficking, kidnap-for-ransom and other criminal activities are still the main sources of funds for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in carrying out its armed operations, a senior military intelligence official said.

“Each (MILF) commander also makes his own money from criminal activities for their operations. They have their own individual sourcing. Not all funds raised reach their leaders,” the official, who declined to be named, told The STAR yesterday.

He said the rebel group also gets funds from foreign sources, but these come in trickles. Some local politicians also give financial aid to the MILF, the official said.

MILF rebels were reportedly behind the spate of kidnappings in Basilan over the past several months. Abu Sayyaf bandits had been blamed for the kidnapping activities.

“Oftentimes, somebody or some group earns at each stage of the kidnapping, one kidnaps and turns over the victim to another group for a price, and the victim is held in custody in an MILF camp, and the leader there would get a share (of the ransom payment),” the official said.

The victims were usually held in so-called MILF territories or in areas covered by the ceasefire agreement with the government. Authorities as a result cannot go after the kidnappers since they would have to “coordinate” first with the separatist group before being allowed to operate in the area.

In Central Mindanao alone, there have been at least six kidnappings recorded this year, including one where the victim’s family reportedly paid P20 million to the kidnappers identified with the MILF.

MILF leaders have always denied any involvement in kidnap-for-ransom activities, but military officials insist the rebel group has a “special operations group” tasked with carrying out criminal activities.

Some survivors in the Basilan ambush last week that left 19 soldiers dead reported having to face guerrillas armed with new high-powered automatic weapons.

Another source said the rebels have marijuana plantations in areas covered by the ceasefire agreement or beyond the reach of government troops.

“There are still some (money) coming in but not as much as before,” the official said, referring to foreign funds.

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By Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) Updated October 25, 2011 12:00 AM

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