The Philippine government has imposed martial law on Mindinao after radical Islamic extremists launched attacks, but it didn’t stop the terrorists from conducting operations. The rebels took a Catholic priest and 13 parishioners and parish employees hostage this morning after attacking the church, despite a blackout in the city of Marawi in which the church was located:
Muslim extremists abducted a Catholic priest and more than a dozen churchgoers while laying siege to a southern Philippine city overnight, burning buildings, ambushing soldiers and hoisting flags of the Islamic State group, officials said Wednesday. President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the southern third of the nation and warned he would enforce it harshly.
The violence erupted Tuesday night after the army raided the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf commander who is on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists with a reward of up to $5 million for his capture. The militants called for reinforcements from an allied group, the Maute, and some 50 gunmen managed to enter the city of Marawi. …
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, and Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Pena said the militants forced their way into the Marawi Cathedral and seized a priest, 10 worshippers and three church workers.
The Islamist terrorists also reportedly beheaded the local police chief:
— Jon Haworth (@JonHaworth_) May 24, 2017
Whether or not the rebellion is part of ISIS is still in dispute, even within the Philippine government. Official military statements accuse the rebels of merely using ISIS for publicity purposes. “They are merely courting the acclamation of ISIS,” a spokesman said, “which until now they haven’t received.” The Abu Sayyaf extremist group predates ISIS by more than two decades, and had been waning as a force in the southern Philippines. US forces deployed in the region as advisers to the Philippine military in 2002, more than a decade before ISIS emerged in western Iraq, as part of the Global War on Terror.
However, Duterte told Vladimir Putin this week that the rebellion was being directed by ISIS, asking the Russian president to send him arms to fight the rebels. Duterte complained that the US reneged on an arms deal, and that he’s in desperate need of a new source:
Undoubtedly, Putin will see this as an opening to extend Russian influence, but Duterte might not be the most stable partner.
What do the extremists want in exchange for the parishioners? Safe passage out of the dragnet, perhaps searching for a do-over:
The gunmen threatened to kill the hostages if the army continues to fight them. Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Peña said he received a call from a militant who identified himself as a “member of ISIS” Tuesday, the Permanent Council of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippine (CBCP) news service reported.
“They want a ceasefire and for the military to give them access out of Marawi. Otherwise, they will kill the hostages,” the bishop said, adding that the call was made shortly before 8pm on Tuesday using the phone of his secretary who is among the hostages. …
Duterte has warned repeatedly that Mindanao, an impoverished region beset by decades of unrest by separatist and Marxist guerrillas, was at risk of “contamination” by Islamic State fighters driven out of Iraq and Syria.
Duterte doesn’t appear to be in the mood for negotiations, however. These hostages need our prayers, as do the people of Mindinao caught up in a generation of terrorism.