Colonial Liberation Front
The Colonial Liberation Front is a paramilitary group primarily located in the Neroid sector of United Americas space. Their stated goal is to secure the independence of all of the colonies in the Neroid sector. They are the largest and most active militant group pushing for the independence of the colonies. The United Americas government classifies the CLF as a terrorist organization, with membership in the organization or providing financial or material support for the CLF being prosecutable offenses.
The CLF grew organically from several different groups that formed in the wake of the Slaughter of Xibou in 2164. Prior to the slaughter of Xibou the conflicts between the United Americas government and the colonists of the Neroid sector had remained mostly non-violent. The sudden increase in tensions after Xibou, combined with the images of slaughtered fighters and civilians alike, greatly increased the willingness of the colonists to take up arms against the United Americas. Several different militant groups formed in the years following the Slaughter, and as they negotiated with one another and found common cause the CLF was formed from their union.
The CLF finds it's origins in the poor treatment and economic exploitation of the colonists of the Neroid sector combined with the increased difficulty that the United Americas has in governing the vast reach of space that it has claimed. Many of the people that travelled to the colonies did so for the promise of finding a better life, but instead found only harsh and inhospitable worlds lacking in many of the amenities that they had come to take for granted. The situation was made worse by piracy and lawlessness, though that was kept in check at first by the Colonial Marshals as well as the United Americas military forces. These issues were greatly exacerbated by the Sol Campaign of 2159 and by the Anti-Colonial Insurgency Act of 2161. The Sol campaign served to draw much if the USCM force tasked with keeping piracy in check out of the Neroid sector as they were retasked with more urgent assignments. The Anti-Colonial Insurgency Act of 2161 strictly curtailed much of the authority of colonial politicians and limited the number of weapons and supplies sent to colonies in order to prevent stockpiling of equipment. The USCM believed that stockpiling of equipment had played a major role in the Mars Militia's prolonged success, and they wished to deny the Neroid sector colonies any chance of developing similar stockpiles. This resulted in under equipped colonists and Colonial Marshals not being able to reliably defend themselves from hostile wildlife and pirates, while also no longer being able to effectively care for those wounded when defending their homes or those who fall sick to illness.
The lack of adequate supplies, growing piracy, and strictly curtailed ability to self govern bred discontent in the Rift, which in turn caused the Free Colonies movement to come into being. The Free Colonies movement is the general term for the idea that the United Americas in unable to effectively govern it's colonies and that the colonies, and that the people of the colonies should resist United Americas governance in order to earn their freedom. These ideas caused a series of protests and civil unrest, which was often met with violence from the Colonial Marshals as well as the Unitad Americas imposing further increased sanctions on the colonies.
The situation in the Neroid sector took a massive turn in 2164 when a colonist named Atticus Graves called for the independence of Xibou. He was a mining foreman, and his short five page manifesto called for armed uprising and open rebellion against the United Americas government. Graves believed that the colonists who live in the rift could fight off any USCM response due to their determination and their knowledge of their home colonies. He claimed that the colonial militia members have drive to fight for freedom, and that the USCM soldiers had no will to fight and die on the soil of colonies so far from their own homes. Graves believed that determined colonists could win their independence by causing the United Americas to lose the will to fight in the Rift. Graves formed a militia, and his militia overran the government buildings and spaceport on Xibou. Grave's militia also either killed or imprisoned all of the Colonial Marshals on the planet. Graves then took on the mantle of provisional governor of Xibou and proceeded to try to run his planet. His governorship was shortlived however, as USCM forces made planetfall and killed every militia member they could find. Grave's militia numbered at around 1,000 members, but they were supported by many colonists who were swept up in the rebellion and who believed in the Free Colonies movement. When the USCM made planetfall they could not readily identify which colonists were the armed militants and which were non-violent colonists. The USCM simply shot everyone that they suspected of being a militia member, resulting in many civilian casualties. This, the "Slaughter of Xibou", was a polarizing event in the colonies. While some supporters of the Free Colonies movement got cold feet and withdrew from the movement, many more became significantly more militant in their outlook. This event stands as the turning point that radicalized many of the original CLF members.
This increasing militancy led to fewer protests and demonstrations and more acts of sabotage. Cells began to form and negotiate with one another. Many different groups formed in this time period. The CLF name itself stems from a sound bite from United Americas news, which described to the whole of armed resistance as a "front of colonial liberation", and later referenced it again as "... this colonial liberation front ..."
The CLF has continued its campaign of armed resistance. Recently there have been attempts by the UPP to shape the course of events in the Neroid sector as well. The UPP has begun to extend offers of material support and training to larger CLF cells in the sector. They have also encouraged some cells to prepare to again try for open armed insurrection similar to what Graves tried on Xibou. While no cells have attempted full insurrection yet, many cells are training many new fighters in preparation. It is only a matter of time before insurrection erupts on some or all of the planets in the Neroid sector.
There are many among the populace of the Neroid sector who believe in some form of independence for the sector. This common viewpoint is referred to as the Free Colonies movement. There is no general agreement as to what form this freedom would ideally take, though some of the more popular opinions are that the colonies should be completely independent, that they should join the UPP, and that they should form a confederation of colonies and self govern together. There are many colonists who support the Free Colonies movement without supporting the CLF. There are also many people outside of the Neroid sector that support or at least sympathize with the Free Colonies movement.
The CLF ideology can be classified as a subset of the Free Colonies ideology, largely drawn from Atticus Grave's manifesto. Specifically, the CLF wants the same goals but differs vastly in which methodology they believe will accomplish those goals. The CLF believes that the path towards independence for the colonies of the Rift is one of armed conflict. The CLF embraces militant conflict with any faction that would seek to control the Rift. They sometimes even come into conflict with other non-CLF factions fighting for independence for the Rift, because they see those factions as still attempting to impose their authority on the Rift. They believe that freedom for the Rift the something that only they can provide. Because most members of the CLF believe that the only path to freedom for the colonies in the Neroid Sector is one of armed uprising, CLF members are definitionally willing to commit acts of extreme violence against anyone that their leadership identifies as a threat to their goals.
Activities and Methodology
While the members of the Colonial Liberation Front can broadly be described either as idealistic freedom fighters or terrorists, there is none the less a broad range of motivations within the group. A meaningful fraction of the ship based CLF cells only loosely adhere to CLF ideology, seeing the CLF instead as more of a flag of cenvenience to fly while engaging in acts of piracy and murder. Many ports and free stations in the Rift that refuse to have dealings with pirates will still happily deal with CLF ships. In their eyes piracy is legitimized by the flying of the CLF banner and the restricting of their prey to United Americas shipping. This means that acts of piracy are incredibly common under the CLF banner. Though United Americas shipping is treated brutally by the CLF, colonial shipping sometimes doesn't fare much better. It is not uncommon for captains of CLF ships to board "friendly" shipping and demand a hefty donation in order to compensate the CLF for the "protection" provided. This practice has led to occasional conflicts between piratical CLF factions who freely prey upon any ship they see and "idealistic" CLF cells which limit themselves to only preying upon United Americas shipping.
Other illegal activities have been linked to the CLF as well. The CLF engages in many acts of smuggling throughout the colonies, bringing illegal goods both into and out of the Rift. The most commonly smuggled goods are weapons and narcotics. The CLF engages in bribery of border officials and Colonial Marshals, as well as crooked and illegal deals with the major corporations that are active in the Neroid sector. There are also numerous acts of sabotage, vigilanteeism, destruction of property, and murder that are committed by CLF fighters.
The CLF lack any sort of standardized weaponry. Early on in their existence the typical armament for a CLF member was either a civilian pistol or an obsolete submachine gun, supplemented by improvised explosives. While these weapons are still potentially deadly in the hands of a determined CLF fighter, they still leave a lot to be desired compared to modern weaponry.
As the conflict has drawn on the cells have slowly become more heavily armed, being able to source previous generation assault rifles such as the mar-40 as well as modern plastic explosives and grenades. This has been attributed partially to the group's increased reputation and power drawing in better armaments suppliers, and partially to their improved finances due to the success of their legal and illegal ventures. Even with their more modern weaponry, the CLF tend to be critically short on heavy weapons and support weapons of any type.
In 2188 CLF propaganda appeared showing CLF fighters in posession of modern UPP weaponry. When United Americas news media aired the images there was a frenzy of speculation as to the source of the modern firearms. The popular opinion, as spurred on by media speculation, is that the newly acquired arms are from corrupt generals in the UPP moving to cash in on the rich arms market in the Neroid sector. Those weapons are actually material support given to the CLF by the UPP. Unbenownst to the United Americas media, the UPP has also equipped some cells within the CLF with significant support weaponry as well. This contributed significantly to the success of the CLF in inflicting heavy damage to the USCM forces involved in Operation Tychon Tackle, especially the anti-ship missiles that the CLF otherwise would not have had the ability to produce nor the expertise to use effectively.
The CLF also lack modern spacecraft armaments. Most of their naval forces consist of modified commercial vessels. These vessels are adequate when it comes to the acts of piracy that the CLF commonly commits, but are wholly inadequate in countering modern USCM vessels. Their naval vessels have inferior speed, range, armor, pdw, and armaments compared to USCM vessels. Most notably lacking is their armaments, which usually consist of batteries of modified ground based artillery. Although these armaments have been modified to function in space, they lack the projectile speed and tracking to operate effectively outside of several dozen kilometers. These ranges are considered to be "knife fighting distance" in terms of space battles, leaving ambush as the only option for effectively engaging USCM warships.
The CLF has historically been organised into loosely associated and quasi-independent cells. There are two types of CLF cells, ship based cells and ground based cells. The ship based cells are sized according to the crew requirements of their ship, usually between six and twelve members. Ground based cells tend to be similarly sized. In larger cities or when carrying out larger operations ground based cells tend to pull multiple cells together to increase their available manpower. The cells are typically led by a captain, which is usually the captain of the vessel for space based cells. Planet or station based cells usually use the same rank, but without the naval connotations. Individual ranks vary wildly between cells, if there are even ranks at all. The generally accepted term for a standard CLF soldier is a "fighter", and the term "CLF Fighter" is used by both the USCM and the CLF themselves. While individual cells share the same overall goals and ideology, though their methods and tactics differ wildly.
Cells usually form stronger ties with other cells on the same planet or station. Usually one of the cells in such a group of cells will take on more of a leadership role when coordinating with other cells from other worlds. The leadership cells only maintain loose associations with other leadership cells on different worlds, and usually have no association with non-leadership cells outside of their own cell group. The exception to this is any ship based cells, which are more independant. They typically maintain loose associations with other ship based and land based cells but do not tend to group into larger networks. Ship based cells are also usually less likely to link up with other ship based cells in order to pool resources and manpower.
In recent years there has been some reorganization of the CLF cell based structure. Seemingly emboldened by the recent lessening of USCM presence in the sector, some cells have begun to grow larger and to claim territory as their own. Where before cells stayed in the shadows, emerging only to strike targets of opportunity, some cells are now using the lack of USCM presence in the Neroid sector to operate more openly. These larger cells are growing to a strength of several hundred or sometimes even several thousand members, and are training in concealed camps and bases. These larger CLF organizations also typically maintain armed and armored ground vehicles and sometimes ships that have been refitted for combat duties. CLF facilities on established worlds stay hidden due to actual, willful, or coerced ignorance on behalf of the Colonial Marshals.