The Moro National Liberation Front is a separatist rebel organization in Mindanao, Sabah, Palawan, and the Sulu archipelago (called Bansamoro Land by the separatists), founded in 1969 and chaired by Nur Misuari. Misuari had previously founded a Muslim advocacy group called the Mindanao Independence Movement, in 1963, to protest the perceived oppression of the Muslim (Moro is derived from the Spanish moor, for Muslim) population of Mindanao by the predominantly Catholic Christian Filipinos. Mindanao and Sabah were not originally Philippine territories, but were claimed by the Federation of Malaysia in 1963.
The Philippine government had been shipping poor farmers to Mindanao since the turn of the century, and launched influence operations in Mindanao among the Tausug and Sama ethnic groups, the two primary non-Malay ethnic groups and traditional allies of the Filipinos. Out of these operations came the Jabidah massacre, where a group of Tausug and Sama Muslims, recruited into the Philippine Army, allegedly mutinied when they found out what their mission would be, and were executed by machinegun fire on Corregidor. Numbers of dead range from 11 to 200, and there has been no official acknowledgement of the incident. It has even been said to be mythical. Regardless, it served as a catalyst for the formation of the MNLF, which celebrates its birth on March 18th, which is considered the commemoration of Jabidah. (Jabidah was reportedly the name of the unit the executed recruits were a part of.)
Nur Misuari was also a part of the leftist Kabataang Makabayan, and was recruited to be the Chairman of the new MNLF by Abul Khayr Alonto and Jalalludin Santos. As open war broke out between the Moro groups and the government in 1972, the MNLF quickly grew to 30,000 fighters. The government committed close to 70 to 80 percent of its forces to the southern islands to fight the Moros. By 1975, 50,000 people had been killed in the fighting.
Misuari’s primary job as Chairman was to solicit aid from other Muslim countries, especially members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Mohammar Qaddafi was a major backer of the MNLF, as well as Muslim groups in Malaysia.