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US to return war booty church bells to Philippines

AFP  |  Manila 

The will return to the church bells seized by American forces in a bloody campaign more than a century ago, its embassy said today, following a demand by

American forces took three bells from the of Balangiga town on the eastern island of in 1901 as war booty in what historians said was a particularly brutal military operation in the new US colony.

and previous Philippine governments had urged to return the bells, with the often raising the issue in his anti-American tirades as he builds closer ties with and

The US had initially given a non-committal response to Duterte's demands but on Sunday said it would return the bells.

"The has notified that the Department (of Defense) intends to return the Bells of Balangiga to the Philippines," said Molly Koscina, for the

"We've received assurances that the Bells will be returned to the and treated with the respect and honor they deserve," she added, saying there was no date scheduled for the move.

Duterte's welcomed the announcement.

Two of the bells are installed at a memorial for US war dead in the state of Wyoming, while the third is with US forces in

Some US politicians oppose the dismantling of the memorial, and the issue had sparked an emotional response from the descendants of American soldiers who served in the Philippine campaign.

The Philippines, a Spanish colony for centuries, was ceded to the in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American War. The country gained independence from the US in 1946.

The brutal campaign was launched about a month after Filipino rebels killed 34 US troops in Balangiga on September 28, 1901, according to a research paper.

Seven other American soldiers perished during the escape from Balangiga, and US reinforcements razed the town the day after, it added.

Then-Philippine first sought but failed to recover the bells during a 1998 trip.

Duterte, who took office in mid-2016, demanded the return of the bells during his State of the Nation address last year: "Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are not yours. They are ours. They belong to the They are part of our national heritage.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, August 12 2018. 13:50 IST