Islamic State radicals in the Philippines have released shocking images of them shooting Christian prisoners face down in the head, as followers of Christ find themselves targeted and hunted down in the IS-taken city of Marawi.
Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group, shared the image online, which depicts masked IS gunmen pointing their guns at five prisoners lying on their stomachs on the ground, wearing orange uniforms with hands tied behind their backs. The prisoners appear to have been shot directly in the head.
Katz's tweet on Wednesday read: "#ISIS shows unseen picture of executions of 'belligerent Christians' by pointblank gunshot after sieging #Marawi #Philippines"
The Philippines army has been engaged in heavy warfare for over two weeks now, seeking to liberate the besieged city, which was captured by the IS-backed jihadists in late May. Though the country is predominantly Catholic, Marawi is a Muslim-majority city.
The radicals have reportedly been burning Christian churches, taking hundreds of Christian hostages, including a Roman Catholic priest, and have slaughtered civilians who have failed to quote scripture from the Quran, the Islamic holy text.
IS gave an account of its actions in the latest issue of its magazine, Rumiyah:
"The soldiers of the Khilafah in East Asia stormed the city of Marawi in the southern Philippines on the island of Mindanao, chased out the local police and the military, and raised the banner of the Islamic State."
The magazine features a number of photos of the murdered Christians, who are described as "belligerent."
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the southern regions of the country, and called for the army to defeat IS by any means necessary.
"I am not ordering you to take an ordinary police action. I am ordering you to crush our enemy," Duterte stated. "When I say crush them, you have to destroy everything including lives."
"I cannot stop my soldiers now. Let's finish this war that you (IS) have started," he added. "The objective of ISIS is to kill and destroy, period. So I will destroy also and kill."
The Associated Press reported on Friday that civilians caught in the crossfire between government troops and the Islamic radicals have been struggling to escape Marawi.
Sittie Johaynee D. Sampaco, a Health Department volunteer, said that those who have managed to escape appear deeply traumatized, and have had to survive several days and weeks without food, water and electricity.
"We're getting a lot of people with severe dehydration, fevers and coughs, hypertension," Sampaco said.
He added that the fighting has taken a heavy mental toll as well.
"Some of the patients can't even speak. Some just cry and won't interact with other people," Sampaco said. "This isn't over. We're expecting to get much more."
Authorities say it is unclear how many people remain trapped in the city, putting out figures ranging anywhere between 100 to 2,000.
Reports from last week shared the stories of Muslims helping their Christian neighbors escape, with Norodin Alonto Lucman, the former vice governor of a Muslim self-ruled area within the city, hiding 71 Christians in his home.
He said that he led 144 people in total "through downtown streets held by self-styled ISIL fighters and strewn with rotting corpses."