In the wake of a recent Daesh (ISIS) attack that claimed one of his country’s cities, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed concern that the U.S. may be seeking to destabilize the country, even suggesting that the U.S. could attempt to assassinate him. This comes ahead of the Philippines attempting to stray away from US influence.
The Philippines has become the first nation in Asia to have one of its cities fall to the international terror group Daesh (ISIS). Clashes between militants and Filipino security forces began Monday night in the southern city of Marawi, as the government raided a home where the leader of the local branch of Daesh, Isnilon Hapilon, was believed to be hiding.
Hundreds of gunmen descended upon the city following the raid, including Daesh forces and members of militant groups that have pledged allegiance to Daesh, including Maute and Abu Sayyaf. Abu Sayyaf also shares links to al-Qaeda – an unusual arrangement, considering that al-Qaeda and Daesh are ostensibly at war with each other.
As Daesh takes control of numerous landmarks and most of the residential areas in the city, the Philippine Army continues to control most of the city’s military bases and government buildings. Heavy fighting continues as the Philippine Army attempts to reclaim areas lost earlier in the week. Marawi, home to a population of around 200,000, has already seen several Christians taken hostage. In response to the chaos, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte cut his visit to Russia short and declared martial law in the entire region of Mindanao, where Marawi is located.
The circumstances of Daesh’s advances in the Philippines are interesting, as its takeover came hours after an RT interview with Duterte aired in which the president offered sharp rebukes of the United States, including the suggestion that the U.S., particularly the CIA, is seeking to destabilize his administration. Though Duterte asserted that he enjoys a friendly relationship with President Donald Trump, he added that Congress, the State Department and other arms of the U.S. political establishment are not in accord with Trump – making it difficult for him to count on the U.S. as an ally in his nation’s fight against terrorism.
“ISIS has established a base in my country, down south. And we are fighting terrorism just like any country and we need arms,” Duterte stated. “And suddenly, two senators of the U.S. Congress said they will not proceed with the exportation. And I said no problem, I can always go to China or Russia.”
Duterte also made it clear in the interview that his foreign policy had “shifted from the pro-Western one.” “I am now working on an alliance with China and I hope to start a good working relationship with Russia,” he stated. At the the time of the chaos in Marawi, Duterte was visiting Moscow – assumably to negotiate an arms deal to replace one that has been stalled by the United States.