Marawi City, Philippines – A Catholic priest abducted by Islamist militants who have laid seige to a southern Philippine city said he was being held with more than 240 other hostages, including children, according to a video that circulated Wednesday.
In the video, Father Teresito Suganob was shown speaking outside destroyed buildings in an unknown location in Marawi City, 800 kilometres south of Manila, as gun and artillery fire rang out.
Suganob appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to order government forces to withdraw from the municipality of more than 200,000 people.
“The above 240 prisoners of war are asking your good heart please consider,” he said. “We want to live another day, another month. We want to live another year, two years.”
The priest said the hostages held with him included teachers, carpenters, household helpers, children and Christians.
“In the midst of this war, we are asking for your help to please give what they are asking for, to withdraw your forces away from Lanao Del Sur (province) and Marawi city, to stop the air attacks and to stop the cannons,” he said.
The gunmen, a mix of militants from various groups that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State movement, laid siege to Marawi City after government forces attempted to arrest a local leader of the international terrorist network.
“The group planned to set ablaze the entire city of Marawi within the time of the month of Ramadan,” General Eduardo Año, the chief of the Philippine military said in a statement on Monday.
More than 100 people have been killed in the fighting, including at least 24 civilians, according to authorities. Among the dead are 65 militants, including at least six foreign fighters, and 20 government forces, they added.
More than 95,000 people have been displaced, while more than 3,000 were still trapped in their homes in the conflict zone, local officials and the Red Cross said.