Persecution Article

Marawi siege: ISIS-inspired militants in the Philippines kidnap priest and parishioners

On May 31, 2017 02:46 PM EDT

Members of the Maute group, a militant group in the Philippines inspired by the Islamic State, kidnapped a priest and several parishioners when they stormed a cathedral in the embattled city of Marawi on the island of Mindanao.

The Maute militants reportedly barged into the Cathedral of Our Lady Help in Marawi City and took Father Chito Suganob, the worshippers, and some church staff as hostage. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte also said the assailants beheaded the local police chief, The Daily Mail relays.

"They have threatened to kill the hostages if the government forces unleashed against them are not recalled," said Archbishop Socrates Villegas in a statement. "At the time of his capture, Father Chito was in the performance of his ministry as a priest ... He was not a combatant. He was not bearing arms. He was a threat to none. His capture and that of his companions violates every norm of civilised conflict."

President Duterte had declared martial law in Mindanao after an encounter between government troops and the Maute fighters on May 23. The fighting came after a raid at a house believed to be a hideout of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who is considered by the United States as one of the most dangerous terrorists in the world.

Marawi Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra, at the time, did not confirm reports that the Maute gunmen had taken hostages. He also said the government is still under control of the situation in the besieged city.

On May 24, government troops manage to rescue at least 42 teachers trapped inside an establishment in Marawi. They were attending a seminar in the building when the clashes between Maute and the military ensued, ABS-CBN reports.

According to a male teacher, who spoke under condition of anonymity, the Maute fighters surrounded the building and attempted to take hostages from inside. The teachers reportedly ran to and fro to hide from the terrorists, and the male teacher got a large gash on his arm after one of the gunmen tried to take him from the rest of the group.

The rescued teachers were brought to the provincial capitol building, where they temporarily sought refuge from the clashes in Marawi city.



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