Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was preparing to make a deal with Islamic State-inspired militants in the days after they laid siege to a southern city, but aborted the plan without explanation, an intermediary involved in the process says. Samantha Vadas reports.
A surprising turn from the Philippines' tough-talking president as fierce fighting in the south of the country rages on into its sixth week. Reuters has been told Rodrigo Duterte had planned to cut a deal with the militants, just days after Islamist fighters first stormed the city of Marawi back in May. A prominent Muslim leader says he was approached by a senior Duterte aide to use his connections to hold talks with the militants. He says the president was even prepared to offer the militants sharia law in the town of Butig, not far from Marawi. Other sources tell Reuters Duterte had worked behind the scenes with the group. But that never got anywhere. The philippines leader declaring to the public a week later that he wouldn't talk to those he calls 'the terrorists'. It's not clear why Duterte suddenly changed tack, but officials say they aren't aware of any back-channel talks and it was unlikely the president had reached out to the group. More than 400 people have so far been killed in the siege, the biggest crisis of Duterte's term in office that's fanned fears Islamic State is trying to cement a stronghold in the region.