Priest says he and 200 others held hostage in Philippines

2017-05-31 06:15
A Philippine soldier guards communication equipment, high-powered firearms, uniforms and ISIS flags in Marawi. (Bullit Marquez, AP)

A Philippine soldier guards communication equipment, high-powered firearms, uniforms and ISIS flags in Marawi. (Bullit Marquez, AP)

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Marawi - A Catholic priest who was taken hostage by militants linked to the Islamic State group says he's being held alongside 200 other captives, including children, in what appeared to be a battle-scarred part of a southern Philippine city.

In a video apparently taken under duress by militants, Father Teresito Suganob said his captors wanted the military to withdraw its forces from Marawi, where Islamic militants still hold pockets of territory after a week of gun battles with the army.

Bargaining chip

A colleague of Suganob confirmed that the man in the video was the priest. It was not clear when the video was taken or who released it online and whether Suganob believed what he was saying or was forced to say it.

Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Pena confirmed that it was Suganob in the video.

"I was glad to see that he is alive but we were also saddened because the fact that the terrorists are ready to negotiate means they are pressed against the wall and they are also desirous to get away from the situation and their bargaining chip are the hostages," he said in a telephone interview.

He said Suganob's mention of people with him made it appear that they are also alive.

"It gives us a lot of hope that these people are worth saving, because they are still alive," he said. "If the air strikes continue, they will really be in danger."

Suganob said in the video that he was taken prisoner along with a professor from Mindanao State University, two female church workers and seven teachers.

Military airstrikes

The siege in Marawi followed an unsuccessful army raid last week that attempted to capture militant commander Isnilon Hapilon, who has been designated by the Islamic State group as its leader in the Philippines.

Marawi, a mosque-studded city about 800km southeast of Manila, is regarded as the heartland of the Islamic faith on southern Mindanao island.

Hapilon escaped and gunmen loyal to him swept through the city of 200 000 people, torching buildings and taking hostages.

Up to 90% of Marawi's people have fled to safety amid the intense fighting and military airstrikes and rescuers in ambulance vans have crisscrossed the city in recent days to save hundreds of trapped residents.


Read more on:    isis  |  philippines

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