World

Trump cites fake Muslim execution story after Spain attack

US President responds to Barcelona attack with tale of Muslim insurgents

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Thursday appeared to endorse the idea of mass executions for Islamist extremists, as he alluded to a widely debunked account of summary punishment by a US general in the Philippines in the early 1900s.

It was another provocative tweet from an increasingly isolated leader who uses Twitter to take shots at perceived opponents - and even announce big policy changes. The tweet also suggested Mr Trump believes a story many historians have said is apocryphal.

Mr Trump first sent out a tweet offering aid to Spain after Thursday's van attack in Barcelona that left at least 13 dead and more than 50 wounded.

About an hour later, he tweeted: "Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!"

He was referring to Gen John "Black Jack" Pershing, the US governor of the mainly Muslim Moro province from 1909 to 1913.

At the time, the Philippines was a US colony. And Gen Pershing's forces had to fight Muslim insurgencies.

UNHOLY

The story, which Mr Trump has referred to in the past, is as follows: Gen Pershing's forces rounded up 50 Muslim insurgents and executed 49 of them with bullets dipped in pig's blood - considered by Muslims to be unholy.

"You heard that, right?" Mr Trump said as a candidate during a rally in February last year in South Carolina, alluding to the pig's blood part.

"They were having terrorism problems, just like we do," he had said.

As the story goes, the 50th prisoner was released to tell fellow fighters about what the Americans had done.

"And for 25 years, there was not a problem. Okay? Twenty-five years, there wasn't a problem," Mr Trump said.

Historians have expressed scepticism or outright denial that this event took place.

According to the fact checking website Politifact, the late military historian Frank Vandiver said in 2003, referring to Gen Pershing: "I never found any indication that it was true in extensive research on his Moro experiences. This kind of thing would have run completely against his character."

Politifact quoted four historians who denied the account.

Mr Trump used to endorse waterboarding but yielded to his generals' advice that torture did not work as a way to extract information.- AFP

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