The Philippines’ president has called for United States special forces to withdraw from the troubled southern island of Mindanao, warning that their presence would worsen conditions in the conflict-ridden region
Philippines leader says conditions in Mindanao will worsen due to US presence, which he blames for massacre of Moro Muslims
“The special forces, they have to go. They have to go in Mindanao,” the Philippine Star quoted Rodrigo Duterte as saying during an oath-taking ceremony for new appointees Monday.
Referring to the Daesh-linked Abu Sayyaf, he said the militant group would capture, demand ransoms for and kill any American they captured.
“Even if you’re a black or white American as long as you are an American, [they will kill you],” he added.
The comments come days after a controversial expletive-laden statement made prior to his trip to Laos for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-East Asia Summit, during which he lashed out at U.S. President Barack Obama for his perceived meddling in his government's crackdown on drug traffickers, pushers and peddlers.
On Monday, he accused the U.S. -- the Philippines’ longtime ally -- of being a “hypocrite”, presenting a photo of American troops near piles of dead Moro Muslims, including naked women, during the 1906 Bud Dajo massacre in which around 1,000 locals were reportedly killed in Sulu province.
“Look at the bodies there... For as long as we stay with America, we will never have peace in that land. We might as well give it up," Duterte said.
Asked about the comments, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters U.S. forces have been in the country "for a number of years at the request of" Filipino leaders.
"It is an indication of the alliance between the United States and the Philippines," he said.
Over the weekend, Duterte declared that his administration will adopt an “independent foreign policy”, after having earlier threatened to pull the Philippines out of the United Nations following criticism of his campaign against illegal drugs, which has seen the killing of more than 2,000 suspects.
Last month, two UN human rights experts and the U.S. state department urged Duterte and Philippine authorities to stop the reported extrajudicial killings taking place in the country under the drive, while ensuring law enforcement compliance with international human rights obligations.
Duterte is the first Philippines president from Mindanao, and has vowed to prioritize the development of the mineral-rich but impoverished region -- where indigenous peoples have long felt oppressed by what they see as Imperial Manila.
He has also made overtures toward several armed Muslim groups -- with the exception of the Abu Sayyaf -- and a communist insurgency operating in Mindanao.
(Reporting By Hader Glang ; Writing By Michael Hernandez) Anadolu Agency