15 taken hostage; 42 still missing

John Unson - The Philippine Star

LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines – Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) confirmed yesterday that at least 15 residents of Marawi City have been taken hostage while many others have abandoned their homes for fear of getting caught in the crossfire.

Hataman, chairman of ARMM’s regional peace and order council, said the militants are using the hostages as human shields to prevent government troops from attacking.

He said Fr. Teresito Suganob of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi City and 14 other parishioners were taken hostage by the gunmen, who also burned the church.

Hataman said they received reports that 42 teachers and workers of Dansalan College in Marawi are missing after the bandits burned the school last Tuesday night.

Jun Endino, a worker of Dansalan College, said a Maranaw state prosecutor volunteered to provide sanctuary to the teachers and workers of the school.

He said the prosecutor lost contact with the workers when Maute gunmen surrounded the area and soldiers prevented him from returning to the building to bring food and bottled water to the Dansalan employees.

The Department of Education (DepEd) also received reports that Maute militants are holding hostage seven workers of Dansalan College.

“Marawi City is now a ghost town. People have evacuated to safer areas. Thousands have evacuated early on,” Hataman said.

Marawi City is the capital of Lanao del Sur, a component province of ARMM.

Hataman said rescuers and relief workers from the ARMM government and the office of Lanao del Sur Gov. Bedjoria Soraya Alonto-Adiong have rescued thousands of residents from the conflict-stricken barangays in the past two days.

He called on his brother Muslims belonging to the Maute group to stop their un-Islamic ways, especially with the start of the holy month of Ramadan today.

Lanao del Sur Vice Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. told The STAR at about 6 p.m. yesterday more than 80 percent of residents in Marawi City have fled to Iligan City and nearby towns in Lanao del Sur.

President Duterte visited Iligan City yesterday and met with officials of different agencies involved in outreach missions for thousands of evacuees from Marawi.  – With Janvic Mateo, Perseus Echeminada, Roel Pareño, Lino de la Cruz

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