The president of the Philippines has instructed his troops to aggressively bomb Islamic militants, even if they are holding civilian captives.
Determined to curb the growing wave of kidnappings, President Rodrigo Duterte reportedly told the navy and the coast guard to fire on militants attempting to flee the scene, regardless of whether or not they have hostages.
Duterte previously gave Malaysia and Indonesia the go ahead to engage militants no matter the cost, and now, Filipino troops have permission to do the same.
“If there are kidnappers and they’re trying to escape, bomb them all,” the president stressed Saturday at a business meeting in his hometown of Davao. “They say ‘hostages.’ Sorry, collateral damage,” he added.
“You can’t gain mileage for your wrongdoing, I will really have you blasted,” Duterte said.
Duterte only had one simple suggestion for his potential civilian victims. “So, really, don’t allow yourselves to get kidnapped,” Duterte explained.
Muslim militant groups in the Philippines, specifically Abu Sayyaf, regularly engage in kidnapping to generate revenue. In the first half of last year, Abu Sayyaf secured $7.3 million in ransom payments.
Abu Sayyaf released a video last Wednesday threatening to behead a German captive if the German government did not pay $10 million.
Two captives picked up three months ago were released Saturday, and while the government said no money changed hands, some local media reports claim that $500,000 was paid to the kidnappers.
Abu Sayyaf is believed to still be in possession of at least 27 hostages.
Abu Sayyaf is a pro-Islamic State terrorist organization that formed in the 1990s in the southern Philippines and has carried out bombings, beheadings, and other acts of violence. Duterte sent thousands of troops to the southern Philippines last year to combat this threat to domestic stability.
Duterte has vowed to eradicate Abu Sayyaf.
“Go ahead. Set off bombs. Time will come when I will eat you in front of people. I will devour you and if I have to, erase you,” Duterte said last year.
Duterte’s latest order is extreme, much like many of his other policies. His shoot-to-kill drug war has killed over 6,000 people, and just like the potential death of civilian captives, Duterte calls innocents killed in his drug war “collateral damage.”
The 71-year-old president has an affinity for violent solutions, but he is determined to clean up the Philippines by any means necessary.
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