Christian Priest, 240 Believers Held Hostage by Islamic Radicals Beg Filipino President for Help (Video)
A Roman Catholic priest who has been kidnapped alongside 240 other Catholics by Islamic radicals in the Philippines has released a video begging President Rodrigo Duterte for help.
Father Chito Suganob, who appears alone in the 5-minute video, names some of the other "prisoners of war" with him, including women and children among the 240, and speaks to Duterte directly, warning him that the embattled city of Marawi cannot be taken by force.
Suganob, who is vicar general of Marawi, asks Duterte "to stop the airstrikes, and to stop the cannons," according to an article published by Catholic News Agency on Tuesday.
Speaking on behalf of the hostages, he says, "please consider us," adding, "it's hard" to bear the gunfire and cannons going off around them.
The priest said the Islamic State-backed Maute militant group, which took Marawi last week, "don't ask for anything ... they just ask that you leave this place peacefully," he said under duress.
Duterte's troops have been bombing the city in a bid to liberate it, though Reuters noted on Thursday that a government airstrike mistakenly killed 11 of its own troops, after a bombing plane missed its target in an operation in the heart of Marawi.
"Sometimes in the fog of war a lot of things could happen. Accidents happen, like this," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said at a news conference.
"It's very sad to be hitting our own troops," he added. "There must be a mistake somewhere, either someone directing from the ground, or the pilot."
Duterte has vowed to drive out the radicals from the city by all means necessary, and to halt the spread of radical Islam in Asia's largest Catholic-majority nation.
The president said that IS was the driving force behind the city's occupation.
"You know, the rebellion in Mindanao, it's not Maute, it's purely ISIS," he said.
Fox News reported that colleagues of Suganob have confirmed his identity from the video, though it's not clear under what conditions the priest was forced to make his statements.
"We want to live another day, we want to live another month," Suganob added in his plea to Duterte.
"Mr. President, if you want me to kneel before you just to knock your heart in favor of our families who are crying out there in different places, for our relatives ... we will do that," he said.
Fox reported that at least 100 people have been killed in the fighting over the city since last week, with many civilians among the casualties.
The majority of the city's population of 200,000 people is believed to have fled the city, but authorities believe 2,000 others remain trapped by the fighting.
Gen. Eduardo Ano, the military chief of staff, separately told The Associated Press that the radicals are trying "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."
Catholic leaders in the Philippines have been speaking out and asking the extremists to show mercy.
"We call on the Maute group that claims to bear arms in the name of a merciful and benevolent God — the very same God we Christians worship and adore — to do the One God true honor by the mercy and benevolence that are two of our God's most exalted attributes," said Archbishop Socrates Buenaventura Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the Filipino bishops' conference.
Villegas also pleaded with government forces to "make the safety of the hostages a primordial consideration."