The president of the Philippines instructed the armed forces to open fire on the Islamic militants terrorizing the country regardless of whether or not civilians are present.
Muslim militants with ties to the Islamic State overran Marawi, a town in the southern Philippines, in late May, and the military has been fighting to dislodge the extremists for over a month. The militants, members of the ISIS-aligned Maute Group, are armed with heavy weaponry, and they have taken civilian hostages to use as human shields.
A spokesman for the military previously said that the push to liberate the besieged city has been slow, as Maute often uses civilians to protect its fighters. He explained that Filipino troops will do their best to prevent civilian casualties in the conflict.
President Rodrigo Duterte, however, wants to see immediate results, no matter the costs.
“Do not hesitate to kill just because there are civilians there. It is the duty of the civilians to flee or seek cover,” the president said Wednesday. “We will face charges, sometimes massacre.” Duterte told his troops that he would protect soldiers who did their duty on the battlefield.
“You know, a bullet can hit through and through,” he added, “For every shot, every squeeze of an Armalite [rifle], the burst is about 3, 4. You keep on pressing it, it can kill everybody behind.”
The president launched a shoot-to-kill drug war immediately after taking office last summer. Several thousand people have perished in the anti-narcotics campaign, including young children. Duterte refers to them as “collateral damage.” He has brought the same aggressiveness to Marawi, putting the southern Philippines under martial law.
“My orders to you: if he carries a gun, he is not a soldier, he is not a policeman, just kill him. That is my order, because they will kill us,” Duterte told Filipino troops early in the operations against radical Islamic terrorism.
The military has leveled whole sections of Marawi to exterminate the militants. The armed forces have conducted regular airstrikes and bombing raids, and Duterte recently said that he is considering instructing the military to just carpet bomb the city.
“You don’t invade it with men,” Duterte said to reporters earlier in June. “You really crush it with bombs.” The death toll for Marawi — including extremists, soldiers, and civilians — is around 400.
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