Duterte gives AFP free hand to rid Marawi of holdouts

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PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has given the military a free hand to rid Marawi of the remaining Islamic State-inspired terrorists who overran the city on May 23.

In a speech Wednesday night in Taguig City, Duterte said the ongoing stalemate in Marawi City, which would enter its 101st day Thursday, would have to come to an end soon.

“The last time I was there, that would be around five, six days ago, I finally said that: The option is already yours because we cannot have a stalemate for over one year,” Duterte said during the 23rd anniversary of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

Duterte admitted that the siege lasted long because he turned down the military plan to bomb the mosque where the terrorists were holed up with their hostages.

“So if you ask why it took us so long to finish that siege? It’s because I copped out,” he said in Filipino. “I could not accept it.”

He said bombing the remaining areas where the terrorists were hiding would “just create more animosity and outright hostility against the government.”

President Rodrigo Duterte

“The Maranaos will not forgive us. My instructions before were to slow down,” the President said.

In the same speech, Duterte also revealed that he sent an emissary to talk to the terrorists about releasing their remaining hostages.

Earlier in the week, Duterte told Maranao youngsters that he would end the Marawi siege in the next three to four days, as he gave the military a deadline to wind up its operations.

“This won’t last any longer. In three to four days, we will finish this,” the President told Marawi children who visited him at Malacañang who are part of the Tabak Educational Tour: Peaceful Environment for Marawi Children on Tuesday.

Duterte assured them that he would give priority to building schools and homes of Marawi residents. He also promised to rebuild their city and gave them hope that the war would end soon.

He also appealed to them not to condone the Maute group, who were of Maranao descent, saying their extremist ideology would promote violence in the country’s south.

“I will try hard to rebuild Marawi to its original state―which is beautiful and there was no violence. But please, do not let the Maute enter Marawi. They want to destroy you by bringing in lots of shabu,” he said.

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