As the Philippines army battles ISIS-aligned terrorists in the country’s southern city of Marawi, the fate of dozens of Christians kidnapped by the jihadi group remains in the balance as a new heightened threat may cost them their lives.
New video observed by The Foreign Desk has surfaced from the terror group in which an ISIS jihadi threatens to behead all the Christian hostages if government forces are not immediately removed from the area.
Marawi, the largest city on the Island of Mindanao, and home to the country’s minority Muslim population has been under martial law since May 23, when Philippine President Rodreiguo Duterte announced a campaign to rid the island of the insurgency.
Last week, members of the Maute group which pledged allegiance to ISIS, set fire to several buildings and a Catholic church. Several people were also taken hostage including Catholic Priest, Father Teresito Soganub.
Soganub appeared in a widely distributed propaganda video Tuesday, saying he is being held along with 240 other captives and appealed to President Duterte to comply with his captors’ demands and withdraw forces from Marawi.
“Mr President, we are in the midst of this war. We are asking your help to please give what your enemies are asking for. They simply are not asking for anything, just to withdraw your forces away from Lanao del Sur and Marawi City, and to stop the air strikes, your air attacks, and to stop the cannons,” Soganub pleaded in the video.
A second video was posted online by an alleged ISIS fighter who warned President Duterte that all the captives would be beheaded if the Philippine leader failed to halt airstrikes and remove troops from Marawi.
The video shows several hostages, one identified himself as a Christian abducted by the militants and appeared to suggest he was being held along with Father Soganub.
“We are asking our President Duterte, leaders, priests and fellow Christians, please have pity on us,” he said with the black ISIS flag in the background. “We are being held hostage along with a priest, teachers and many others. Please encourage the government to withdraw their soldiers from here. Have pity on us, President Duterte”
At least 19 civilians and 20 government officials have died since the Marawi crisis began. A presidential spokesman confirmed the deaths of 65 militants, including at least four foreign fighters.
The leader of the Maute group, Isnilon Hapilon, was declared an Emir of ISIS for southeast Asia in 2016. He has been on the FBI’s most wanted list since 2006 over his involvement with the terror group Abu Sayyaf.