Islamic State-affiliated terrorists in Malawi City are planning to use their kidnap victims as suicide bombers, three escaped hostages have warned.
Romar Marjalino, aged 39; his brother Roel, 37, and Jimmy Esperat, 43, told authorities that the terrorists were planning to strap bombs to their captives before freeing them.
The three former hostages — who swam to freedom across a 1,00-metre wide river — were reunited with their families at a navy base yesterday (Sunday, August 12).
The hostages managed to escape last week and and were turned over by military chief Rene Medina to Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar on Saturday.
When being defriefed, the men confirmed that Catholic priest Father Teresito Suganob was still alive.
Mr Marjalino said: “We were with Father Chito. He is okay, but he is tasked to collect powder from piccolo, five-star and other explosives to be used for improvised bombs that will be rigged to us.”
He also said that another 45 hostages — including 20 women and 13 children — were still being held. Several children had already died, he added.
According to his report, although Father Suganob was still alive, he was resigned to his fate and “ready to die”.
He said they invited him to escape with them, but the priest said he was too weak and traumatised.
“For him, he would be happy if a huge bomb would hit the area,” Mr Marjalino added.
He said they had been planning to escape since the first day of their captivity, but were constantly watched by gunmen.
“If we would escape we would surely die,” he added.
“Some of the terrorists were good to us, others treated us like animals.”
He said their plan to escape was made possible because the weeks of fighting had reduced the number of guards. They eventually ran for it when their watchmen were sleeping.
“All were asleep except from the one at the main door. With God’s help, that guard did not see us.”
Meanwhile, it has been reported by ABS-CBN News that Islamist reinforcements are still making their way into the besieged city.
The military neither confirmed nor denied the report but said government troops were ready for such a possibility.
The crisis in Malawi has raged since May 23 after a botched operation to arrest Ipnilon Hapilon, the IS leader, or ‘emir’, in the region.
Hapilon, who is also a commander of Abu Sayyaf with a $5 million FBI bounty on his head, was being harboured by the local Maute terror group and discussing plans to unite the various Islamist factions of Mindanao under the blag flag of IS.
The unexpected ferocity of the fighting since then and the presence of foreign jihadis suggest he was successful.
So far, 552 terrorists have been killed alongside 128 government troops. An estimated 400,000 civilians have been displaced by the chaos.