A Catholic priest who claims he's been kidnapped alongside more than 240 hostages by fighters linked to the Islamic State in the Philippines appealed Tuesday to President Rodrigo Duterte to stop the vicious terror spree.
In a video that surfaced on Facebook, Rev. Teresito “Chito” Suganob, vicar general of the Prelature of Marawi, pleaded to Duterte to consider the lives of the hostages, most of whom are Christian. He asked the president to stop the airstrikes and air attacks.
In the past week, gunmen linked to Isnilon Hapilon, a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who has pledged allegiance to ISIS, swept into Marawi City on the island of Mindanao, burning buildings, seizing Suganob and his worshippers and raising the black flag of the terror group.
“Mr. President, please follow your heart, please consider us,” he said, according to MindaNews. “You know it’s hard. Mr. President, from time to time we hear the outburst of guns from your ground of enemies; heavy firearms from your side. It’s hard.”
He added: “They don’t ask for anything. They just ask that you to leave this place peacefully. Don’t give so much attack. The city in my background is ruined like this.”
Suganob is seen wearing a black polo and standing in front of ruined homes in Marawi.
Duterte declared martial law in the south through mid-July after the militants went on the deadly rampage in Marawi, a lakeside city dotted with hundreds of mosques, following an unsuccessful military raid to capture Hapilon.
The death toll since Tuesday is close to 100, according to the AP, which includes 16 civilians, 61 militants, 11 soldiers, and four police officers.
In the 5-minute video, Sugnob pleaded to Duterte that they were the victims and that his captors are “ready to die for their religion.”
“Mr. President, we are asking for your consideration.”
The militants include foreign fighters and local gunmen who want to establish a regional branch of the Islamic State group, the military said Tuesday.
Soldiers have taken control of about 70 percent of Marawi, where the gunmen have been fending off the army for a week, military chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Ano said.
"They wanted to show the world that there is an ISIS branch here which can inflict the kind of violence that has been seen in Syria and Iraq," Ano told The Associated Press, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.
Marawi is regarded as the heartland of the Islamic faith on the southern Mindanao island.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.