President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday called for the withdrawal of U.S. special forces troops from a group of islands in the southern Philippines, saying their presence could complicate offensives against Islamist militants notorious for beheading Westerners.
Duterte, who was in the spotlight last week over a televised tirade against the United States and President Barack Obama, said the Americans still in Mindanao were high-value targets for the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf militants as counter-insurgency operations intensify.
"They have to go," Duterte said in a speech during an oath-taking ceremony for new officials. "I do not want a rift with America. But they have to go."
He added: "Americans, they will really kill them, they will try to kidnap them to get ransom."