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MILF asks Maute gunmen to free hostages

/ 04:05 PM June 05, 2017

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs. (INQUIRER.NET FILE PHOTO/ RYAN LEAGOGO)

ILIGAN CITY – A top official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has asked for the release from captivity of a Catholic priest and more than 200 other civilians held by Islamic State-inspired militants in Marawi City.

“We appeal to those who are still holding captive Fr. Chito (Teresito Suganob) to release him in the name of peace,” said MILF vice chair for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar.

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Suganob, vicar-general of the prelature of St. Mary in Marawi and chaplain of the Mindanao State University (MSU), was snatched by militants in the early hours of the siege on the city last May 23, along with two lady church workers.

In a proof of life video released by the militants last week, Suganob said he was part of a throng of some 240 individuals being held captive by the militants in an undisclosed location.

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Speaking amid ruined buildings, he specified that he was with a female professor of the MSU; two lady church workers, who presumably were the ones taken with him at the prelature; two male and five female teachers of the Dansalan College Foundation; and some 200 carpenters, househelps, children, youth, Christians and Subanen people.

“He (Suganob) is a priest, a religious leader, in the time of prophet Muhammad, He respected so much religious leaders and non-combatnats, like children, women, the elderly,” said Jaafar, also chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

By releasing Suganob “the soonest possible time, we are sure that such deed will be rewarded by Allah,” Jaafar added.

Suganob has worked for over 20 years in various capacities in the prelature which was established by the Vatican in the mid-1970s “to provide a reconciling presence” among the Muslims.

Apart from interfaith dialogues, Suganob has been active in helping Maranao activists advance the cause of clean elections in the province.

The MILF has been helping the Philippine government set up a peace or humanitarian corridor in a bid to rescue civilians still holed up in homes and buildings for some two weeks now, unable to flee to safety for fear of being hit in the crossfire.

Maranao women leader Samira Gutoc-Tomawis called on “everyone who are in the position to influence the Maute group on humanitarian grounds” to help in securing the freedom of Suganob and the other hostages.

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“We appeal to government to carefully consider its military options, giving greater weight to the safety of hostages and trapped civilians,” she said.

The peace corridor initiative has brought a four-hour respite from fighting since Sunday, although it is very specific only to a three-kilometer stretch of space that runs across Marawi’s business district.  SFM/rga

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TAGS: abu sayyaf, Acts of terror, all-out-war, Armed conflict, Armed Forces of the Philippines, clash, Counter-terrorism, Criminality, Defense, Encounter, Fr. Chito Suganob, Fr. Teresito “Chito” Suganob, Ghadzali Jaafar, gun battle, hostage negotiations, Hostage taking, Hostages, Insurgency, Law and Order, law enforcement, manhunt for terrorists, Marawi City, Marawi City attacks, Marawi peace corridor, Marawi siege, Martial law, Maute group, Military operations, Mindanao martial law, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, peace corridor, Phil‎ippine National Police, Philippine president, police operatons, public order, Public safety, pursuit operations, raid, rebellion, Rodrigo Duterte, Security, terror attacks, Terrorism, War
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