Video has emerged that purports to show Islamic State-linked militants in the Philippines ransacking, desecrating and burning a Catholic cathedral inside the besieged city of Marawi.
On Sunday, the Amaq News Agency, which is affiliated with IS (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Deash) and has released other IS propaganda films in the past, released a film purporting to show militants destroying the inside of the Catholic church.
The video shows militants yelling "Allahu Akbar" (God is the greatest) as they raided the church. The militants toppled and stomped on statues, crucifixes and other religious iconography. One militant is shown in the video tearing down a poster of Pope Francis and proceeding to stomp on it, while another militant is shown tearing up a picture of Pope Benedict XVI.
The militants showed no regard as they proceeded to light the building on fire.
Although the exact location of the church was unclear, the CBCP News Service points out that it was St. Mary's Cathedral inside Marawi that was destroyed in the video.
Commenting on the destruction and burning of the church, the Bishop of Marawi Edwin de la Peña expressed outrage over the militants' destruction of the cathedral.
"We are angered by what happened. Our faith has really been trampled on," de la Peña told the CBCP News Service, adding that he has seen the video. "That is blasphemy!"
The Maute Group first raided Marawi on May 23 and killed as many as 19 people, which reportedly included eight Christians who refused to recite the Islamic declaration of faith. The group is also believed to have kidnapped as many as 240 Catholics, including Father Teresito "Chito" Suganob.
On Wednesday, government officials reportedly said that military troops have surrounded Maute Group militants in Marawi and that the conflict is now concentrated in the city's business district against Maute snipers.
The bishop also revealed that the church was warned before the attack that the terrorist group was planning to "destroy and burn the church." However, he said the church didn't quite heed the warning.
"That's really their plan even before according to the raw intelligence report that we've been receiving," de la Peña explained. "But we didn't take it seriously because for us it was unthinkable that it's going to happen in Marawi."
The action carried about by the militants in Marawi are similar to actions taken by IS militants in Iraq and Syria, who were responsible for destroying sacred churches and monasteries in the region.
"It's obvious that their actions are really out of this world," de la Peña asserted. " It's demonic."
Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla expressed concern during a press briefing on Wednesday that the sharing of the video showing the church's destruction could "fan hate" and "induce other Christian elements to fight."
"There are videos circulating around regarding the armed elements destroying a church," Padilla was quoted as saying. "We have requested that these be pulled out, because it may fan hate and it is intended by these militants to induce other Christian elements to fight against these armed elements or to sow hatred among Christians and Muslims."
Padilla additionally claimed that "this is not a religious war, this is a terror attack on the City of Marawi and we must be clear about it."
Last week, Suganob, who is the vicar general of the prelature of Marawi and who is believed to have been captured by the Maute Group, appeared in an apparent propaganda video circulated online in which he told President Rodrigo Duterte that the militants "don't ask for anything ... they just ask that you leave this place peacefully."
"Mr. President [Rodrigo Duterte], we are in the midst of this war," Suganob said under duress in the video. "We are asking for your help to please give what they are asking for, to withdraw forces away from Lanao del Sur and Marawi City, and to stop the air attacks, and to stop the cannons."