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Monday, June 5, 2017

ISIS releases video of desecration of Marawi cathedral

MARAWI CITY – An ISIS propaganda video has surfaced on social media on Monday that showed its fighters desecrating the Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi City in the southern Philippine province of Lanao del Sur.
The clip, believed to have been taken during the first week of the ISIS siege of Marawi, showed militants stomping and smashing statues of the Virgin Mary and other saints, including a huge statue of Jesus Christ nailed on the wooden cross.
They also tore and burn pages of the holy Bible and photographs of Pope Francis at the Cathedral’s altar. Militants also destroyed and burned the Credence Table, Tabernacle, the Ambo and Presider’s Chair while chanting “Allahu Akbar” or “God is Great” before retreating away from the church. They also abducted its priest Father Chito Suganob along with other church workers.
The video lasted about 1 minute and 45 seconds and also appeared on the ISIS website. There was no immediate statement from the military on the desecration of the church.
Sporadic clashes also continue in Marawi and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said more than 2,400 civilians are still stranded and trapped in the fighting, although over 3,700 people had been safely rescued, according to Governor Mujiv Hataman.
He said over 235,000 people were affected by the violence and that some 130,000 have been assisted served by social workers in different evacuation areas in Iligan and Marawi cities, and in the towns of Baloi, Bubong, Pantar and Saguiaran, all in Lanao del Sur, including house-based civilians. Humanitarian assistance continues, he said.
But at least 5 dozen people were also reported missing and 22 had been killed since the clashes began on May 23 when armed militants occupied the city in an effort to establish a “wilayah” or province of the Islamic State in the restive region.
Hataman said more than 22,000 students and over 2,000 teachers were also affected by the fighting which is now on its third week.
Donations
While the number of evacuees continues to increase, donations from various individuals and organizations are also pouring in to help ease the plight of those displaced by the hostilities, according to Hataman. “Hanggat may IDPs, patuloy and pagbibigay natin ng relief goods,” he said.
Hataman said while the regional government continues to call for donations, it has also earmarked some P100 million in relief assistance to families adversely affected by the crisis. 
Myrna Jo Henry, a spokeswoman for the ARMM’s Humanitarian Emergency and Action Response Team (HEART), said that most of the donations come from private individuals, small organizations and government offices from all over Mindanao and the rest of the country. “These donations are distributed by the ARMM-HEART to internally displaced persons who are staying either at homes of relatives or in designated evacuation centers,” she said, adding, even ARMM employees have also been active in raising funds and donations since the crisis broke out.
She said they have distributed a total of 20,000 bottles of water and 10,000 relief packs to evacuees in Iligan City during the early days of the crisis. So far, she said a total of 26,082 families or 130,410 people have been provided with food and non-food items.
A 20-year old student in Cotabato City, Amino Sahabuddin, also launched a donation drive with his classmates and urged their professors to do the same. He said even small donations will make a big difference for those affected by the fighting.
“We cannot help them all, but at least we could help some of those who are affected by the war. Kahit ‘yung isang araw na maitawid mo ang gutom ng (isang evacuee) ay malaking bagay na,” Sahabuddin said.
He now collects small amounts of money and gathers food packs and used clothing for the refugees and delivers all these to the operation center of the ARMM HEART.
Just over the weekend, security forces battling local ISIS fighters rescued over 180 civilians trapped in the war-torn city, but one villager was shot dead by a sniper while running to his freedom, according to Army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, adding troops continue to brave the dangerous streets on Marawi to rescue the civilians.
Petinglay said troops continue battling militants and were searching house-to-house for jihadists and civilians.
Brigadier General Rolando Joselito Bautista, commander of military forces fighting the militants, also renewed appeals to the public and urged citizens to help authorities fight terrorism. “We call on our people to stand and unite against terrorism. The fight against terrorism is not the sole duty of the security sector but the responsibility of everyone,” he said.
The military said troops had killed at least 120 militants, but only recovered 42 bodies of jihadists, including 98 assorted weapons, from an automatic rifle to machine guns, left behind by the ISIS fighters, mostly members of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups. But over 3 dozen soldiers also perished in the violence with dozens more injured in fierce urban and close-quarter clashes. (Mindanao Examiner)
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