Philippine soldiers rescue priest from Islamic militants
Father Teresito “Chito” Soganub was found abandoned with another hostage near a mosque early September 17.
Marawi is among three militant strongholds that have fallen to government forces over the past several days.
Father Soganub had been held captive since militants attacked his Saint Mary’s Parish during the siege of Marawi on May 23.
On May 30 he appeared in a propaganda video pleading for his life and asking the military to cease aerial bombardments.
The Philippine forces have held back launching a full-scale attack on rebel strongholds, fearing for the lives of Father Soganub and several hundred other hostages.
Some hostages who escaped or were rescued said the militants forced them to convert to Islam, cook food and carry wounded fighters.
Some women were forced to marry militants.
The rescue came after the Philippine military said some militants had sent text messages saying they were prepared to surrender, after receiving promises they would not be killed and would be treated humanely.
“We are trying to convince them to release all their hostages – if not all the hostages, just the women inside the main battle area,” said Colonel Romeo Brawner, the deputy commander of a Marawi taskforce.
“If they surrender we will not shoot them. That’s our arrangement,” he said.
Since hundreds of heavily armed militants flying the black flag of Islamic State seized the city of 300,000 on May 23, they have engaged security forces in ferocious street-to-street battles that have left more than 800 dead, reports smh.com.au.
Philippine military chief General Eduardo Ano described as “enormous” gains made by his soldiers over the weekend.
Militants fled the Bato Mosque which the militants were using as a control center after a fierce five-hour battle.
“As follow-up and clearing operations continue, we expect the enemy to yield more occupied positions but not without a fight,” General Ano said.
Philippine military officers have been saying for weeks they expected to regain control of the city within days but the militants have proven far better armed and trained than first thought.
The siege has prompted fears that Islamic State-linked extremists will gain a foothold in the southern Philippines.
A large part of Marawi has been destroyed in the fighting.
(Source: Sydney Morning Herald, September 18, 2017)