Manila: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said today he told his Indonesian and Malaysian counterparts that their forces can bomb fleeing Filipino militants and their kidnap victims at sea because the hostages “are not supposed to be there.”
Duterte said in a speech that he told Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo that their forces could enter Philippine waters while pursuing Muslim militants who are fleeing with hostages.
Duterte said he told the leaders that if the militants were about to escape, “bomb them. If they cannot be captured you bomb them. How about the hostages? Eh, bomb them also. They’re not supposed to be there, there is a warning.”
The brash-talking Duterte cited a US travel advisory warning Americans not to travel in the treacherous waters bordering the three countries.
The Abu Sayyaf militant group is holding more than a dozen mostly foreign hostages in their jungle lairs on the southern Philippine island of Jolo.
Despite discussions among the three leaders on ways to strengthen security along their sea borders, Abu Sayyaf militants and allied gunmen from Jolo and nearby islands have continued to target and kidnap crewmen of slow-moving tugboats as well as fishing boats.
The ransom-seeking militants, who are notorious for beheadings, have also attacked cargo ships and separately snatched a South Korean skipper and Vietnamese crewmen in the southern Philippines. The US and the Philippines consider the Abu Sayyaf a terrorist organization.