Abus want caliphate, Duterte tells troops
CAMP MELCHOR DELA CRUZ, Gamu, Isabela—President Duterte told the soldiers here to brace themselves for a long fight ahead against the Abu Sayyaf and other terrorists seeking to establish a radical Islamic caliphate in Southeast Asia.
Addressing the troops at Camp Melchor dela Cruz, Mr. Duterte said that unlike other Moro rebels, the Abu Sayyaf was not hungry for autonomy or independence for Mindanao.
“They are hungry for a fight to establish a caliphate in Southeast Asia. A caliphate is a kingdom for the Muslims,” Mr. Duterte said.
He mentioned this as he spoke of pursuing peace talks with the communist and Moro rebels.
The President said the problem with the Abu Sayyaf was that it would not talk with the government on what it could give to them, like schools.
“It’s either the caliphate or nothing,” he said.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front was willing to talk, but he said Moro National Liberation Front founder Nur Misuari was “ambivalent.”
“In my view, Nur will not commit now. He’s consolidating the forces, but he has lost control of the young men of the Moro generation, the Abu Sayyaf,” Mr. Duterte said.
The President said the soldiers would have to “reinvent themselves into intelligence agents, ones who are trained in profiling,” so they could stop the Abu Sayyaf from carrying out terrorism, including attacks on urban areas.
“They won’t be content with bombings in Davao. So it’s a long fight ahead,” he said.
A deadly blast ripped a popular night market in Davao City, the President’s hometown, early this month, killing 15 people and wounding about 70 others. Police are looking into whether or not the Abu Sayyaf was involved.
All the equipment they need
The President said what he could assure the soldiers was that he would provide them with the equipment and weapons they need to win the war for as long as he was in charge.
He said he had given the defense secretary “absolute authority to buy whatever is necessary.”
He also said he had ordered the procurement of improved medical equipment for them, and ordered that the presidential plane be used as an air ambulance for the troops.
The camp that Mr. Duterte visited yesterday had deployed 1,800 men to Sulu, where the Abu Sayyaf has a presence.
The President had ordered the Armed Forces to destroy the Abu Sayyaf after its last beheading of a hostage.
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