Manila – Philippine troops are working to rescue dozens of hostages held by Islamist militants in a besieged Southern City after extricating a Catholic priest held captive for nearly four months, Officials said on Monday.
Father Teresito Soganub, 51, and a 29-year-old teacher were recovered by the military as soldiers retook control of a mosque held by the militants in Marawi City, 800 kilometres south of Manila, on Saturday.
Suganob was held with 35 other hostages, but the priest was only able to see 12 of them, according to General Eduardo Ano, the armed forces chief of staff.
“There are many intricate tunnels and secret chambers in the mosque and we are actually clearing those chambers,’’ he said at a news conference where Soganub was presented to media.
“Our efforts are ongoing to rescue the hostages there are also hostages in other nearby buildings. We will try to rescue them alive,” he added.
Soganub, who had a long white beard and hair, smiled and waved at the media gathered at the military headquarters in Manila.
“Pray for me, for my healing (and) recovery, thank you very much. God bless you all,” he said before he was whisked away for a medical check-up and debriefing.
When asked how he was, the priest said, smiling, I am physically strong and handsome. That’s all.’’
The conflict in Marawi began on May 23, after government forces tried to arrest a local leader of the Islamic State terrorist movement.
Since then, more than 900 have been killed, mostly militants, while more than half a million have been displaced.