President Rodrigo Duterte (Photo: EPA/VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – Philippine authorities on May 24 said Islamic extremists had taken a Catholic priest and others hostages at a cathedral in the southern city of Marawi on the island of Mindanao in southern Philippines.  

Gunmen entered the church and seized the Reverend Chito Suganob alongside more than ten churchgoers, said Archbishop Socrates Villegas.

He added that they threatened to kill the hostages if the government forces besieging them are not recalled.

The incident came after President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the southern region of Mindanao, an operational area of several Islamic militant groups, on May 23 because of the militants’ insurgency in Marawi, a mostly Muslim-populated city of 200,000 people.

The violence in the city erupted on May 23 after the army raided the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, a commander of the Abu Sayyaf group and leader of a branch of the Islamic State (IS) group in the country. 

Over 100 gunmen responded to army forces by setting fire to buildings, attacking soldiers and flying IS flag, according to Defence Secretary Delfil Lorenzana.- VNA