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Maute militants threaten to kill hostages — Marawi bishop

Maute militants threaten to kill hostages — Marawi bishop

An undated photo of Catholics preparing for a Mass at the St. Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi City. PHOTO COURTESY OF DONDIE CABIGAS

MANILA— The militants linked to the Islamic State has threatened to kill their hostages, including a Catholic priest, if the military offensive against them continues, a Catholic bishop said.

Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Peña said he received a call last night from one of the militants, who introduced himself as “a member of the ISIS”, and demanded for a “unilateral ceasefire”.

“They want a ceasefire and for the military to give them access out of Marawi. Otherwise, they will kill the hostages,” Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Peña said.

The prelate said the call was made shortly before 8pm on Tuesday using the phone of his secretary who is among the hostages.

Members of the Maute group forced their way into the church and the bishop’s residence yesterday, and took with them Fr. Chito Suganob, some staff of the cathedral and churchgoers.

Dela Peña said the hostages are being used as “human shield” by the militants.

He added that the Maute also allowed him talk with Suganob, who is also the prelature’s vicar general, to make sure that “their demands are clear with me”.

The prelate said that he had difficulty getting in touch the military in Marawi so he called Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo dela Cruz who contacted AFP Western Mindanao Command and relayed the message.

The bishop said that he was at the outskirts of Marawi City when the attack took place and only learned that the St. Mary Cathedral and his residence was burned at about midnight.

“I was supposed to go to Marawi yesterday but I was asked to cancel my trip because of the siege,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who cut short his trip to Russia, has placed the entire island of Mindanao under Martial Law following a deadly gun battle between the government forces and the Maute in Marawi City.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the declaration was due to the existence of rebellion as guaranteed in the country’s 1987 Constitution and would remain valid for 60 days.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also confirmed the armed group burned cathedral, the city jail, Ninoy Aquino school and Dansalan College.

“Three soldiers, a policeman and two soldiers were killed while 12 others were wounded,” Lorenzana also said.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) called on Filipinos to pray for Suganob and other hostages.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP President, also asked the government to ensure the safety of the hostages as they pursue the militants.

“As the government forces ensure that the law is upheld, we beg of them to make the safety of the hostages a primordial consideration,” Villegas said.

“Finally, we call on the Maute group that claims to bear arms in the name of a Merciful and Benevolent God — the very same God we Christians worship and adore — to do the One God true honor by the mercy and benevolence that are two of our God’s most exalted attributes,” he said. (With reports from Melo Acuna/CBCPNews)