‘Army can beat extremists’
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has rejected proposals to declare a state of emergency on a violent southern island to more rapidly defeat Abu Sayyaf extremists.
Duterte (inset) also announced yesterday that government troops and police would not enforce a warrant for the arrest of prominent Muslim rebel leader Nur Misuari, who leads one of two large Islamic insurgent groups in the country’s south, so they could talk.
Duterte has pursued talks with Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front and the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front, however he has ordered troops to destroy the smaller but more brutal Abu Sayyaf, which is notorious for bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings.
A massive military offensive in Sulu, a predominantly Muslim province where the Abu Sayyaf has had a long presence in lush jungles, has left 30 militants dead, including an influential commander. The Abu Sayyaf, however, struck back on Monday as the country was celebrating national heroes’ day, and killed 15 soldiers, including an officer, in fighting off Sulu’s mountainous Patikul town.
Asked if he would relent to a longstanding proposal by military officials to place Sulu under a state of emergency to allow government forces to arrest militants more easily, Duterte said he would not.
“No, it’s just punitive police action by the security forces of the government,” Duterte said at a news conference. “The magnitude of the trouble there does not warrant anything except the industry of the” military and police.
Duterte asked Misuari to come out of hiding after being criminally charged for his role in a 2013 rebel siege.