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Gunmen take Catholic hostages; Philippines’ Duterte imposes martial law

Gunmen claiming to have links with Daesh threatened to kill hostages, including a Catholic priest, who were taken from the southern Philippine city of Marawi on 23rd May.

President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the entire Muslim-majority region of Mindanao late on 23rd May, but reported that many, including Church leaders, characterised the imposition of martial law as an overreaction.

As of early morning on 25th May, nothing had been heard of the whereabouts of the priest and the prelature’s staff and some churchgoers who were taken captive.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato appealed to Muslim religious leaders to intercede with the gunmen, who claimed to be Muslims, for the safety of the hostages who were reportedly used as “human shields” when the militants attacked the city.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Philippine bishops’ conference, said the terrorists “have threatened to kill the hostages if government forces pitted against them are not recalled.”

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

Initial reports received by said Fr Teresito Suganob, vicar general of the Prelature of Marawi, and several staff of St Mary’s Cathedral, which was set on fire, were taken hostage. The gunmen also forced their way into the residence of Bishop Edwin de la Pena of Marawi.

Picture: Philippine government soldiers walk past a mosque before their assault on Maute insurgents, who have taken over large parts of the town of Marawi. Residents started to evacuate Marawi after President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the entire Muslim-majority region of Mindanao. (CNS photo/Romeo Ranoco, Reuters).