Duterte warns of civilian cost in war on militancy

Philippine leader warns ‘all-out war’ against Abu Sayyaf would result in heavy casualties without bringing peace to south

Duterte warns of civilian cost in war on militancy

World Bulletin / News Desk

President Rodrigo Duterte warned Friday that while he could launch “all-out war” against militants based in the Philippines’ Muslim south, he was concerned about huge losses -- especially on civilians -- that would result from such a move.

"I can be nasty and I can be a bad boy but I am talking about a nation,” he said after visiting wounded soldiers at a military hospital in southern Zamboanga City.

“If I will go on full blast invasion, I will really send soldiers with bomb. I can do it now," he added. “But what would it bring us? You kill about 20,000 [ethnic] Tausugs? You wipe out them... including the mountains... but would it bring us peace if I use force?"

Duterte called on Abu Sayyaf militants to stop its criminal activities, saying he was open to starting peace talks if they would halt kidnapping and violent activities -- and even expressing willingness to visit the group alone to begin direct talks.

“They have nothing to gain if they kill me,” he said. “Let us give our people a chance. We cannot be forever treating human beings here seriously wounded.”

The president, who took office June 30, said he had initially wanted to talk with the Abu Sayyaf but was discouraged after the group beheaded an 18-year-old Filipino hostage in August -- prompting Duterte to order intensified military operations against the group.

"If you want autonomy or if you want something else, federalism, I am ready I, am committed to federalism's set-up to appease the Moro in the entire Philippines," he underlined, referring to another Muslim ethnic group from the country’s south.

"Why just you don't stop killings, violence maybe we can talk and temporarily we can have a temporary structure like a federal set-up, in the meantime let peace come in then we can improve the place," he stressed.

Duterte has been pitching federalism as one way to address the "historical wrongs" done to Muslims in the Mindanao region, which he claims fuels rebellion and terrorist acts.

His administration is engaged in an ongoing peace process with the country’s two largest one-time rebel outfits -- the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and its breakaway group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Since 1991, the group -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortions in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.

It is one of two militant groups in the south who have pledged allegiance to Daesh, prompting fears during the stalling of a peace process between the government and the MILF that it could make inroads in a region torn by decades of armed conflict.

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Last Mod: 25 Kasım 2016, 19:28
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