ISABELA, Philippines, (Pakistan Point News - 21th july, 2016) - Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte stepped up efforts to bring peace to the country's insurgency-hit south during a visit there on Thursday, calling upon the militant group Abu Sayyaf to end its campaign of violence. Speaking to local military and government leaders on the troubled island of Basilan, a base of the Abu Sayyaf group, Duterte said: "I am pleading for peace, even with the Abu Sayyaf.
You have committed crimes, killing people... You are not thinking of anything but hatred." But Duterte, the first president to hail from the south and who claims Muslim ancestry, added that "every Filipino life is precious" and "we have to stop this war". The Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of a few hundred militants formed in the 1990s. Duterte is known for his hardline stance against crime, even boasting of killing numerous criminals, but he he has called repeatedly for talks with all rebel groups.
Despite his message of peace, Duterte warned that if the group did not lay down its arms "soldiers will keep coming. That is the response of government". His visit came as troops were battling the Abu Sayyaf in the hinterlands of Basilan. The military has said at least one soldier and over 30 Abu Sayyaf fighters were killed in weeks of fighting there.