Grouped into three, separate sultanates, the Muslims in southern Philippines fought Spanish colonization for centuries. It was not until right before the advent of American annexation, in 1898, that Spain managed to conquer all of the large island of Mindanao and defeat the last sultan of Sulu.
Once incorporated into the Roman Catholic Philippine state, many Moros, as the Spaniards called the Muslims, felt discriminated against, and several waves of insurgencies were launched. The current one was initiated in 1971, when the university professor Nur Misuari formed the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Three years later, President Ferdinand Marcos declared war against the separatists, and a decade-long armed conflict ensued, claiming almost 150,000 lives.