MARAWI CITY – President Duterte on Wednesday visited wounded troops in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province where security forces were battling hundreds of jihadists whose group is tied to the Islamic State.
His visit came a day after jihadists detonated a roadside bomb and attacked a convoy of presidential guards was passing the area and wounded at least 7 of them. The guards were part of Duterte’s advance security team and heading to the army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade when jihadists attacked them.
Duterte met closed door with top security officials inside the tightly guarded 103rd Infantry Brigade headquarters and was briefed by the military on the on-going operations against the group of jihadist leader Abdullah Maute that occupied Butig town and hoisted ISIS flags there.
He also spoke with troops and encouraged them “to persevere and do their work with the guarantee of his all-out support.”
Duterte told soldiers that his priority is the welfare of all the people and the entire nation and “very much wants peace to reign all over the land, but not at the expense of peace loving citizens.” Following the visit, the president went to Cagayan de Oro and also visited and pinned medals to wounded soldiers
Military propagandists claimed that 61 jihadists had been killed and about a dozen more wounded since the battle began this week in Butig town. At least 35 government soldiers were confirmed injured in the clashes.
Duterte earlier said he wanted to talk peace with the Maute group and the Abu Sayyaf rebels in an effort to put a stop to ransom kidnappings, terrorism and deadly clashes in the troubled region.
“Pati Abu Sayyaf, I’m ready to talk to them. I’m ready to open the borders. I’m ready to talk about opening the borders down south, no problem – Kasi may trade pa noon, wala masyadong gulo noon. We cannot be forever treating human beings here, seriously wounded. Let us talk. Let us give our people a chance.”
“I can bomb more if I want to. At the end of the day, what can I say to the Filipino? That we have wiped out almost all of our Yakan, Sama, Tausug brothers? Even those not connected with the violence now? Either we talk, if you want autonomy or if you want something else, federalism, I am ready. I am committed to federalism set-up to appease the Moro,” he said.
But there were no indications that the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups are interested in peace talks with Duterte.
On Wednesday, security officials said government troops clashed with Abu Sayyaf rebels and killing one of them on Capual Island off the southern Sulu town of Omar in the restive Muslim autonomous region.
Soldiers recovered the body of the slain rebel, including three motorboats, an automatic rifle and an improvised explosive following the Tuesday fighting between members of the 11th Scout Rangers and the notorious group tied to the Islamic State.
There were no reports of casualties from the military side. (With a report from Rhoderick Beñez)
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