Filipino soldiers rescued two hostages, a Catholic priest and another civilian, from Islamic militants during a battle in the besieged city of Marawi.
Jesus Dureza, adviser to President Rodrigo Duterte, and two senior security officials announced Sunday that troops rescued the two hostages after battling to retake the Bato mosque and a school, which Islamic militants used as a command center, according to the Associated Press. Authorities identified the priest as Father Chito Suganob who, along with the other rescued civilian, was held captive for four months, according to ABS CBN.
Dureza declined to make details of the rescue and preceding battle public so as not to compromise military operations against the Islamic State militants. Suganob appeared to be in good spirits after his rescue, despite his four month ordeal.
Marawi priest Fr. Chito Soganub has this to say when reporters asked him about his condition.
— Inquirer (@inquirerdotnet) September 18, 2017
Col. Romeo Brawner told reporters the Filipino military is hunting down 80 Islamic militants whom they believe remain in Marawi, according to AP. The militants hold more than 40 hostages, some of whom they have forced to join the Islamic State as the militants’ numbers dwindle.
Gen. Eduardo Año, military chief of staff, praised the troops’ Saturday victory and warned the remaining militants to surrender before it is too late.
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines will press on relentlessly until conclusion,” Año said, according to AP. “We urge the remaining terrorists, especially former hostages turned fighters, to … surrender while they still have time.”
The U.S. and Australia have aided the Filipino military with surveillance aircraft as concerns mount over the possibility that ISIS will focus on and gain influence in Southeast Asia in light of their defeats in the Middle East.
The siege of Marawi, regarded as a Muslim holy site in a largely Catholic region of the Philippines, has killed 860 since the fighting began in May and has displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians.
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