Islamic State-affiliated terrorists have filmed themselves conducting an orgy of destruction in Marawi City’s St Mary’s Cathedral.
In the video published by the IS’s Amaq News Agency, the militants can be seen toppling crucifixes, stamping on posters of Pope Francis and smashing statues before lighting fires in the cathedral.
Efforts to recapture the city are continuing nearly two weeks after terrorists went on the rampage under the IS black flag.
The chaos erupted after a failed raid to capture IS’s regional representative, or ‘emir’, Isnilon Hapsilon, an Abu Sayyaf commander who has a $5 million FBI bounty on his head.
It is believed he was being harboured by the local Maute terror group as he attempted to unite the various Islamist groups of the Philippines under the banner of IS.
The extent of the chaos that erupted after the raid — and the confirmation of foreign jihadis in the city — suggests he had made some headway towards this end.
The clashes have left at least 178 dead, including 20 civilians, at least 120 militants and 38 soldiers and policemen.
Yesterday, a four-hour ceasefire was declared to give civilians a chance to leave the city, but gunfire resumed after just one hour.
President Duterte has said that he will not negotiate with the terrorists, and has ordered troops to destroy the militants, even if they kill the 240 hostages they hold.
In a speech at an air base at Lapu-Lapu, the president said: “I was asked if I could negotiate. I’m telling you now, you can kill all those you’re holding now, but I won’t talk to you.
“My order really is to shoot you and to shoot you dead.”
However, commanders have held back from indiscriminately bombing the city with fighter jets due to concerns over the safety of about 2,000 civilians trapped amid the fighting. Last week we reported that 11 soldiers were killed in a “friendly fire” bombing raid.