RODRIGO Duterte may have relatives in the Islamic State (IS) global terror network, according to the latest stunning admission from the Philippine president himself.
He said some have joined the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), two Islamist separatist organisations operating out of the Philippines.
“To be frank, I have cousins on the other side, with MI and MN. Some, I heard, are with ISIS,” he was quoted saying during a recent interview with Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa.
Duterte appeared to suggest, however, that family ties would not affect the way he deals with terrorist groups.
The president reportedly offered his apology in advance, should he encounter any one of his IS-linked cousins.
“You are you and I am I, and I said, if we meet in one corner, so be it,” he said.
During the interview, Duterte also linked IS to two recent bomb attacks – one on Christmas eve in Midsayap, Cotabato, and another one last September in his hometown of Davao City.
“The ISIS seems to be everywhere,” he said.
The president refused to divulge more details, however, saying he was not ready just yet to do so.
The Davao bombing had killed 14 and injured 70. After the blast, local IS affiliate Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility but later denied this, saying instead that the attack had been executed by its ally Daulat Ul Islamiya. Nine people were later arrested in connection with the attack.
On the other hand, no group has claimed responsibility for the Christmas eve bombing, which left 16 people injured.
Another more recent explosion took place during a boxing match in Leyte province on Dec 29. Like the Midsayap explosion, no group has claimed responsibility.
Duterte, however, believes that the Leyte bombing might have been related to drugs.
Last year, the president launched a major armed offensive against the Abu Sayyaf group, resulting in scores of violent skirmishes and the deaths of many militants. The campaign also led to the release of several kidnap victims who had been held for months by the IS-linked local terror group.