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Gunmen take Catholic hostages; Philippines' Duterte imposes martial law


  • Philippine government troops stand guard May 24 at a checkpoint along a main highway in Lanao del Norte province. Residents started to evacuate the town of Marawi after President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the entire Muslim-majority region of Mindanao. (CNS photo/Romeo Ranoco, Reuters)
  • A Philippine government soldier inspects a vehicle May 24 at a checkpoint along a main highway in Lanao del Norte province. Residents started to evacuate the town of Marawi after President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the entire Muslim-majority region of Mindanao. (CNS photo/Romeo Ranoco, Reuters)
  • Philippine soldiers stand guard outside a government facility in Davao City following the declaration of martial law in Mindanao. (CNS photo/Cerilo Ebrano, EPA)
  • Philippine government soldiers walk past a mosque before their May 25 assault on Maute insurgents, who have taken over large parts of the town of Marawi. Residents started to evacuate Marawi after President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the entire Muslim-majority region of Mindanao. (CNS photo/Romeo Ranoco, Reuters)

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MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Gunmen claiming to have links with the Islamic State group threatened to kill hostages, including a Catholic priest, who were taken from the southern Philippine city of Marawi May 23.

President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the entire Muslim-majority region of Mindanao late May 23, but ucanews.com reported that many, including church leaders, characterized the imposition of martial law as an overreaction.

"(The terrorists) have threatened to kill the hostages if government forces pitted against them are not recalled," said Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Philippine bishops' conference.

"As the government forces ensure that the law is upheld, we beg of them to make the safety of the hostages a primordial consideration," he added.

Initial reports received by ucanews.com said Father Teresito Suganob, vicar general of the Prelature of Marawi, and several staff of St. Mary's Cathedral, which was set on fire, were taken hostage. The gunmen also forced their way into the residence of Bishop Edwin de la Pena of Marawi.

Bishop de la Pena confirmed reports that the attackers took Father Suganob, several of the prelature's staff, and some churchgoers. He said he received a call from "a member of Islamic State" who used his kidnapped secretary's phone and demanded a "unilateral cease-fire" in exchange for the life of the priest and the other hostages.

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