Marawi priest and congregation taken hostage by islamic terrorists

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A Catholic priest and churchgoers have been taken hostage by Islamic State-affiliated terrorists rampaging through Marawi City.

Maute group gunmen forced their way into a cathedral and seized the Reverend Chito Suganob along with more than a dozen members of his congregation and staff.

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Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, and Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Pena said the militants forced their way into the Marawi Cathedral and seized a priest, 10 worshippers and three church workers.

The priest, Father Chito, and the others had no role in the conflict, Villegas said.

“He was not a combatant. He was not bearing arms. He was a threat to none,” Villegas said of Chito. “His capture and that of his companions violates every norm of civilized conflict.”

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Villegas says the gunmen are demanding the government recall its forces.

President Duterte has declared martial law in Mindanao after clashes in the city on Tuesday and has cut short a trip to Russia to deal with the crisis.

In a video recorded on his flight home from Moscow, the president said: “To my countrymen who have experienced martial law, it would not be any different from what President Marcos did. I’d be harsh.

“If it would take a year to do it then we’ll do it. If it’s over within a month, then I’d be happy. To my countrymen, do not be too scared. I’m going home. I will deal with the problem once I arrive.”

The president also revealed that a local police chief had been killed by militants. He said: “The chief of police in Malabang on his way home, going back he was stopped by a checkpoint manned by terrorists and I think they decapitated them right then and there.”

Government forces are battling to contain dozens of Maute militants after they escaped a botched security raid on a hideout and overran streets, bridges and buildings. At one point they reportedly raised the black flag of Islamic State over a hospital.

Two soldiers and a police officer are among those killed and at least 12 people have been wounded in the violence, seeing Maute militants set fire to a school, a church and a prison.

Authorities insisted the situation was under control but residents who fled Marawi said it was in the hands of the extremists, who had allowed civilians to leave.

“The city is still under the control of the armed group,” student Rabani Mautum told Reuters in nearby Pantar town, where some residents were leaving in overloaded trucks.

“They are all over the main roads and two bridges leading to Marawi.

“I was in school when we heard gunfire… when we came out there were blood stains in the building but we did not see dead or wounded.”

Critics and human rights groups have already raised concerns over the declaration of martial law on the entire island — which is about the size of South Korea and home to 22 million people — to contain rebels in one city.

It will last an initial 60 days and the president has until Thursday night to explain his decision to congress under the Philippines’ 1987 post-Marcos constitution.

Tuesday’s failed raid was aimed at capturing Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf group and the official representative, or ‘emir’ of IS in Southeast Asia.

Mr Duterte has warned repeatedly that Mindanao, an impoverished region beset by decades of unrest by separatist and Marxist guerrillas, was at risk of “contamination“ by IS fighters as the terror group loses ground in the Middle East.

MORE ON ABU SAYYAF AND TERRORISM IN THE PHILIPPINES:

Killing of Abu Sayyaf leader hailed as major setback to terror group

Three more Abu Sayyaf terrorists, including one leader, killed on Bohol

Nine dead after Islamic-State linked terrorists storm tourist island

Battle-hardened Islamic State fighters plan to regroup in southern Philippines

Factsheet: The Abu Sayyaf terror group – who they are and what they do

“Now he kills me”: Last words of German beheaded by Abu Sayyaf

Duterte says Abu Sayyaf ‘not criminals’, and blames US for terrorism

Islamic State plotting new terror stronghold in Mindanao

Islamic State cash flows into Philippines disguised as OFW remittances

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