On May 24, during the siege of the city of Marawi in the southern Philippines, Muslim extremists took a Catholic priest and more than a dozen parishioners hostage, The Associated Press reports.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said that the militants forced their way into the Marawi Cathedral and seized a Catholic priest, ten worshippers, and three church workers. Villegas also added that the priest, Father Chito, and the others had no role in the conflict.
“He was not a combatant. He was not bearing arms. He was not a threat to anyone,” Villegas said of Chito. “His capture and that of his companions violate every norm of civilized conflict,” Villegas said the militants are demanding the withdrawal of the government’s forces.
Violence erupted on Tuesday after the army of Isnilon Hapilon, a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group, which has pledged allegiance to ISIL (organization banned in Russia) invaded. Isnilon Hapilon is on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. The militants called their allies, the Maute Islamic group for reinforcements, and around 50 militants managed to enter the city of Marawi.
In just one night, while Marawi was blacked out, groups of militants swept through the city, occupied the Mayor’s office, hospitals, and prisons, raised the black flag of ISIL (organization banned in Russia), burnt a Catholic Church, a college, and several houses. On Tuesday, Delfin Lorenzana, the Filipino Defense Minister, said that, in Marawi, militants and snipers of the “Maute” Islamic group were lying in wait in ambush. The news came on Tuesday evening, when Lorenzana was in Moscow, where he accompanied President Rodrigo Duterte on an official visit. Due to the difficult circumstances, Duterte cut his trip short and flew back to Manila.
On Tuesday, President Duterte declared martial law for 60 days in the entire Mindanao, a restless Southern part of the Philippine archipelago. He warned everyone that he would strictly implement it, and vowed to be “harsh”, “I have to do it to preserve the republic”, the President said.
Source: Rossa Primavera News Agency