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Duterte To US Troops: Get Out Of Southern Philippines Or The Radicals Will Kill You

REUTERS/Lean Daval Jr

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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The Philippine president says U.S. forces need to leave if they don’t want to die at the hands of Islamic militants.

President Rodrigo Duterte says U.S. troops in Mindanao must leave the area immediately. He argues that they are at risk of being abducted and killed by the ISIS-linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), reports the Philippine Star.

“The special forces, they have to go. They have to go in Mindanao,” Duterte said Monday during a speech at Malacañang Palace.

“If they see an American, they would kill him. They would demand ransom and kill him. Even if you’re a black or white American, as long as you are American, they will kill you,” Duterte added.

The Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) was established in 2002 as a U.S. contingency force to fight terrorism in the Philippines; however, it was deactivated last year, reports Rappler.

Since then, a small group of U.S. troops have stayed behind to assist Philippine police and military units. U.S. forces have a rotating presence in the region under the provisions of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Mindanao in the Southern Philippines is home to several Muslim militant groups, such as ASG, the Maute Group, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“The situation there in Mindanao will worsen. If they (Americans) are seen there, they will be killed,” Duterte further explained.

Duterte subsequently showed images of the Bud Dajo Massacre, wherein U.S. soldiers killed around 1,000 Filipino Muslims during an early 20th century conflict, the Filipino-American War. The photos showed U.S. soldiers standing next to piles of dead Moros. Duterte indicated that the U.S. is to blame for the present conflict-ridden situation in Mindanao.

“Look at the bodies there … For as long as we stay with America, we will never have peace in that land,” said Duterte.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that Duterte’s comments reflect the president’s strong interest in pursuing a “new direction towards an independent foreign policy.” “Our connection with the West is the real reason for the ‘Islamic’ threat in Mindanao,” Abella explained in an official statement.

During the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Laos, Duterte called President Barack Obama a “son of a whore.” “I am no American puppet. I am the president of a sovereign state, and we have long ceased to be a colony. I do not have any master except the Filipino people,” he said in response to Obama’s plans to chastise Duterte for human rights violations in his brutal “shoot-to-kill” drug war.

Duterte also bashed American human rights violations and showcased images of the massacre in Mindanao at the ASEAN Summit.

Duterte’s remarks signal a noticeable decline in the U.S.-Philippine relationship, an alliance which was strong under former Philippine president Benigno Aquino III.

Of course, not all Filipinos share the president’s sentiments.

“We have reservations on the pronouncement of the president as we all know the assistance provided by the U.S. troops in ensuring the security and peace and order in the city,” said Acting Mayor of Zamboanga Cesar Ituralde, according to the Philippine Star. Other officials expressed disappointment, noting that American troops have been involved in many regional humanitarian aid projects.

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