Government troops guard a checkpoint in town of Pantar in Lanao del Norte after residents began evacuating their hometown of Marawi in the southern Philippines, May 24, 2017
© Romeo Ranoco / Reuters
Government troops guard a checkpoint in town of Pantar in Lanao del Norte after residents began evacuating their hometown of Marawi in the southern Philippines, May 24, 2017
Gunmen have taken a priest and several parishioners at a cathedral hostage, a Philippine Roman Catholic church said, adding that the militants have vowed to kill the captives "if government forces unleashed against them are not recalled."

The hostages were taken from a cathedral in Marawi city on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, said on Wednesday.

"Father Chito Suganob and others were in the Cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians when members of the Maute fighting group forced their way into the Cathedral, taking with them Father Chito and others as hostages," a statement on the official website of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said.

Maute is an Islamist group that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).


President Rodrigo Duterte recently put the island of Mindanao under martial law, ordered in special forces, and cut his state visit to Russia short, after militants affiliated with Islamic State began vying for control of the city of Marawi.


The gunmen captured the Reverend Chito Suganob and more than a dozen parishioners and staff members, Villegas said. According to the Archbishop, the gunmen vowed to kill the captives "if government forces unleashed against them are not recalled."

The archbishop said that Father Chito "was in the performance of his ministry as a priest" at the time of his capture.

"He was not a combatant. He was not bearing arms. He was a threat to no one. His capture and that of his companions violates every norm of civilized conflict," he said.