Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called for the withdrawal of U.S. military from a restive southern island on Monday, fearing an American troop presence could complicate offensives against Islamist militants notorious for beheading Westerners.
Duterte — who was in the spotlight last week over his televised tirade against the United States and President Barack Obama — said special forces now training Filipino troops were high-value targets for the ISIS-linked Abu Sayyaf as counter-insurgency operations intensify.
“These special forces, they have to go,” Duterte said in a speech during an oath-taking ceremony for new officials. “I do not want a rift with America. But they have to go.”
He added: “Americans, they will really kill them, they will try to kidnap them to get ransom.”