Separatist, Maoist rebels keep mum on Duterte's offer to fight alongside govt troops against ISIS-linked militants

A government soldier takes position during an assault on insurgents from the so-called Maute group, who have taken over large parts of Marawi City, in Marawi City, southern Philippines on May 25, 2017.
A government soldier takes position during an assault on insurgents from the so-called Maute group, who have taken over large parts of Marawi City, in Marawi City, southern Philippines on May 25, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (Reuters) - Muslim separatists and Maoist-led rebels on Monday (May 29) said they opposed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-linked militants in the Philippines, but gave no indication they would take up President Rodrigo Duterte's offer to fight alongside government troops.

Duterte on Saturday (May 27) appealed to various rebel forces to become "soldiers of the Republic" and unite to defeat Abu Sayyaf rebels and the Maute group, both of which have aligned with ISIS.

The Maute seized parts of Marawi City on the southern island of Mindanao last week.

"All terror groups are opposed by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People's Army (NPA)," Luis Jalandoni, the Maoist-led rebel group's chief peace negotiator, told domestic broadcaster ANC from the Netherlands. "In that sense, the CPP and NPA would be together with the Duterte government in opposing the Maute group and the Abu Sayyaf."

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He did not say whether the rebel group would take up Duterte's offer to give guerrillas the same pay and benefits as government troops and build houses for them, if they joined the battle to defeat a common enemy.

Duterte said southern separatists and communists knew the local terrain and had fighting experience. "You already know how to use a gun. Just practice pulling the trigger," he said.

Ghadzali Jaafar, a senior leader of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said its central committee would need to meet to discuss the president's offer, but was against Islamist extremism.

The MILF, which signed a peace deal with the government in 2014, but has yet to fully implement it, said last week it would cooperate with the government and help people affected by the Marawi unrest.

"We call on our forces to extend all necessary assistance to the people of Marawi to ensure their safety and frustrate the aim of any group or groups to sow divides in our communities," it said in a statement.

The Moro National Liberation Front appeared to be the only rebel group ready to join the government. Its leader and founder leader, Nur Misuari, suggested the idea to Duterte and volunteered his men to join the battle in Marawi.