DUTERTE OF­FERS OLIVE BRANCH

But pres­i­dent also ready to con­tinue fight­ing if mil­i­tants re­main hos­tile

New Straits Times - - World -

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

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