Duterte orders troops to blast militants, hostages

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he has ordered his troops to bomb extremists who flee with their captives in a bid to stop a wave of kidnappings at sea, calling the loss of civilian lives in such an attack “collateral damage.”

Duterte has previously stated that he had told his Indonesian and Malaysian counterparts their forces can blast away as they pursue militants who abduct sailors in waters where the three countries converge and bring their kidnap victims to the southern Philippines. He said in a speech late Saturday that he had given the same orders to Filipino forces. He said he instructed the navy and the coast guard that “if there are kidnappers and they’re trying to escape, bomb them all.”

“They say ‘hostages.’ Sorry, collateral damage,” he said in a speech to business people in Davao, his southern hometown.

He said such an approach would enable the government to get even with the ransom-seeking militants. “You can’t gain mileage for your wrongdoing, I will really have you blasted,” he said. His advice to potential victims? “So, really, don’t allow yourselves to be kidnapped.”

Duterte’s remarks reflect the alarm and desperation of the Philippines, along with Malaysia and Indonesia, in halting a series of ransom kidnappings primarily by Abu Sayyaf militants and their allies along a busy waterway for regional trade.