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Philippine president wants US forces out of restive south

During a speech in Manila Monday, Rodrigo Duterte showed photos of what he described as Muslim Filipinos who were slain by US forces in the early 1900s.
During a speech in Manila Monday, Rodrigo Duterte showed photos of what he described as Muslim Filipinos who were slain by US forces in the early 1900s.TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines said Monday he wants US forces out of his country’s south and blamed America for inflaming Muslim insurgencies in the region.

It was Duterte’s first public statement opposing the presence of American troops.

Duterte has had an uneasy relationship with the United States since becoming president in June and has been openly critical of American security policies. As a candidate, he declared he would chart a foreign policy that would not depend on America, his country’s treaty ally.

In 2002, the US military deployed troops to train, advise, and provide intelligence and weapons to Filipino troops battling Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippines.

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When the American forces withdrew in February last year, US officials said a smaller contingent of US military advisers would stay. Details of the current US military presence in the south were not immediately available.

Duterte did not mention any deadline or say how he intends to pursue his wishes. The US Embassy did not immediately issue a reaction.

The Philippines was a colony of the United States from 1898 to 1946, except for a period of Japanese occupation in World War II.

In opposing the US military presence in the southern Mindanao region, Duterte cited the killing of Muslims during a US pacification campaign in the early 1900s, which he said was at the root of the long restiveness of minority Muslims in the largely Catholic nation’s south.

‘‘For as long as we stay with America, we will never have peace in that land,’’ Duterte said in a speech to newly appointed government officials.

He showed photos of what he described as Muslim Filipinos, including children and women, who were slain by US forces in the early 1900s and dumped in a pit in Bud Daho, a mountainous region in southern Sulu province.

Duterte repeated his criticism of President Obama for having raised human rights concerns about the Philippine leader’s bloody crackdown on drugs while not apologizing to the Philippines for past American atrocities against local Muslims. Police say more than 2,800 suspected drug pushers and users have died since Duterte took office on June 30.

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