Philippine general urges martial law to rein in southern militants

Wed Jun 15, 2016 7:54am EDT
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MANILA (Reuters) - A senior Philippine army general on Wednesday resumed a push for martial law to be imposed on a troubled southern island where Islamist militants beheaded a Canadian captive, despite a recent decision by President Benigno Aquino not to adopt such curbs.

On Monday, militants of Abu Sayyaf, a small but brutal group linked to al Qaeda, executed Robert Hall on the remote island of Jolo, the second Canadian captive to be killed following John Ridsdel, after their ransom demand went unheeded.

"Declare martial law, that is a right move," said a senior Philippine army general, who declined to be identified as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

"If you want to immediately solve the problem, there should be a total control by the military in the area."

Emergency powers were needed because the Abu Sayyaf was using its ransom proceeds to buy the loyalties of the surrounding community, he added.

Aquino said he considered declaring martial law on Jolo three weeks ago but decided against it because there was no guarantee it would work.

"You would need a large force to implement martial law and there is no guarantee it will produce positive results," he told reporters on a visit to Jolo to inspect troops pursuing Abu Sayyaf militants.

"It might generate more sympathy for the Abu Sayyaf."

Aquino said he spoke with the prime ministers of Canada and Norway by telephone, thanking them for their understanding and support of his government's no-ransom policy.   Continued...

Hostages Canadian national Robert Hall (R) and Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad (L) are seen in this undated picture released to local media, in Jolo island in southern Philippines. The Philippines confirmed on Tuesday the execution of Robert Hall, a Canadian who had been held hostage by the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Islamist militant group on a remote southern island with three other people since September 2015. Handout/ via REUTERS