May 31 (UPI) — The Philippines military on Wednesday said it is analyzing a video purportedly showing a Roman Catholic priest captured by militants loyal to the Islamic State in Marawi City.
In the video, Rev. Teresito Suganob, possibly under duress, urges President Rodrigo Duterte to end a military offensive in Marawi.
The Philippine military said it was analyzing the video released on social media on Tuesday showing the priest, who was abducted last week along with some parishioners, appealing for the safety of his group.
In the undated video, gunshots can be heard in the background as Suganob makes his statement in front of dilapidated, war-torn buildings. Suganob said he is among 200 people, including women and children, abducted by Abu Sayyaf and the Maute militant Islamist groups. The number of those captured has not yet been verified.
“Mr. President, we are in the midst of this war,” Suganub said. “We are asking for your help to please give what they are asking for. To withdraw forces away from Lanao del Sur and Marawi City, and to stop the air attacks, and to stop the cannons.”
Suganub said those captured “want to live another day, another month … We want to live another year, two years.”
“They do not ask for anything, Mr. President,” Suganub said. “For all we know this is their place. They are ready to die for their religion.”
“Mr. President, they do not ask for anything. They just ask that you leave this place peacefully. Do not give so much attack. The city in my background is ruined like this,” Suganub added.
Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, a spokesman for the Philippine military, said that although forensic specialists are analyzing the footage, the video is propaganda.
“It means that they’re fighting for survival, they’re trapped,” Padilla said.
The Philippine military this week said it regained control of most of Marawi from militants in fighting that has driven residents from the city. Maute fighters, who have declared allegiance to the Islamic State, control small portions within the southern Philippine city, the military said.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law last week on the southern island of Mindanao, where Marawi is located, after the army attempted to capture a top militant leader. The militants took over several buildings and burned others.
Allen Cone contributed to this report.
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