The vast Philippine island of Mindanao was synonymous with Muslim separatist violence for decades. That was before the government and a large rebel group signed a peace deal last year.
The pact, which calls for a cease-fire and legislation to establish a Muslim-led autonomous region, would pave the way for tourism, agribusiness and mining. But now Filipinos from the Senate to the streets are questioning that deal — and the competency of their otherwise popular president.
Souring their attitude was a government commando operation in January to capture suspected terrorists on Mindanao that went horribly awry. As many as 250 people died in the raid, including 44 commandos.
The 24-hour battle between government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF, which had signed the peace deal, resulted in the death of a Malaysian-born suspected bomb maker who was on the U.S. list of most-wanted terrorists.
Other antigovernment Muslim rebel groups refused to sign the agreement and may have since become more radicalized. According to some reports, the slain terrorism suspect, Zulkifli Abdhir, also known as Marwan, may have trained volunteers for the militant group Islamic State who have relocated to Iraq and Syria. Abdhir was wanted by the FBI, but the U.S. government has denied that it participated in the commando raid.