DUTERTE OFFERS OLIVE BRANCH
But president also ready to continue fighting if militants remain hostile
ILIGAN CITY (Philippines)
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte appealed to militants on Friday to abandon hostilities and start a dialogue to end their bloody occupation of a southern city that experts called a major blow to regional security.
Duterte said the presence of foreign fighters in street battles that had raged since Tuesday in Marawi was proof that Islamic State had gained a foothold in Mindanao.
“My message to the terrorists is we can still resolve this through dialogue. And if you cannot be convinced to stop fighting, so be it. Let’s just fight,” Duterte told soldiers here.
Special forces were deployed to drive out the remaining 20 to 30 Maute group rebels holed-up in Marawi, but encountered heavy resistance on Friday. The army said 11 soldiers and 31 militants had been killed.
Rohan Gunaratna, a Singapore-based security expert, said the siege was a wake-up call for the Philippines.
“Filipinos need to get their act together. They must understand