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Marawi: Duterte rejects claim that troops looted

MANILA Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday rejected allegations by a rights group that troops engaged in looting during the bloody battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria followers in the southern city of Marawi.

Mr Duterte also assured soldiers that he would protect their interests following allegations by Amnesty International that they had committed abuses during the five-month battle that left over 1,000 people dead.

"Those (allegations) of stealing in Marawi, I don't believe it. I was there. I know," he told soldiers wounded in the siege.

Mr Duterte, who frequently met soldiers during the operation, said it was understandable if they had used a civilian's electric fan to combat the heat.

"But I don't believe my soldiers are thieves. Where would they put (the stolen items)?" he said.

Amnesty International released a report that alleged the troops looted TV sets, antiques and computers. The fiery President said he did not believe such allegations.

"Especially these human rights (groups). All they do is talk. Forget them. I'll handle everything," Mr Duterte said.

He did not mention Amnesty's more serious allegations, that soldiers had detained and tortured civilians trying to flee the besieged city during the fighting.

Instead, he reiterated his promise to double their salaries by next year and provide them with new guns and equipment.

Mr Duterte has long clashed with human rights organisations over his bloody anti-drugs campaign, which has claimed thousands of lives and his alleged disregard for due process. - AFP

WORLD