Days after the Islamic State reportedly kidnapped 15 people from a church (including a priest and nuns) in Marawi, Philippines, the terrorist group released a video showing showing the destruction of a Catholic Church.
The terrorists can be seen smashing statues, tearing a picture of Pope Francis and finally setting the church on fire.
The militants belong to the Maute terror group, which pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2015.
The same Islamic State-allied militants in the Philippines took a Catholic priest and a group of church-goers hostage on May 22-23, threatening to kill them if the nation’s military does not cease its current offensive against them. They also burned the Catholic cathedral of Marawi. ISIS has destroyed numerous Catholic Churches in the regions they control.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, denounced the hostage-taking and implored the militants to return the church-goers, who he said were not connected to the conflict between the group and the military.
The country’s Catholic bishops have urged prayers for the captured priest and the other hostages in the area. While the majority of the Philippines is Catholic, they make up only a small percentage of the population in Marawi, a mostly Muslim city of about 200,000 people, located on the island of Mindanao.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been heavily criticized for a brutal crackdown on illegal drugs, has cut short his trip to Russia and placed all of Mindanao island under martial law. The president has sought peace talks with two large Muslim rebel groups in the country’s south but has ordered the military to destroy smaller extremist groups like the Maute.
Efforts to evacuate the city of Marawi have been largely unsuccessful, though thousands have fled since the arrival of ISIS. Approximately 2,000 others remain trapped, caught between the fighting.