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PHILIPPINES – Bishop of Marawi: “Video appeal of Fr. Chito: critical phase, we fear for the lives of the hostages”
Marawi (Agenzia Fides) – “Terrorists have sought contact with the military and the institutions. They released a video where Fr. Soganub Teresito, called Fr. Chito, one of the group of about 15 Catholic hostages, launches an appeal to President Duterte asking for the end of the bombings and the attack in Marawi. As foreseeable, militants are now in difficulty, they are with their shoulders against the wall.
We are happy to see that Fr. Chito, Vicar of Marawi, is alive, but we are afraid of the fate of the hostages, about 200 civilians in all, now used as human shields”: This is what the bishop of Marawi, Edwin de la Pena says to Agenzia Fides, expressing his concern for this delicate phase of the ongoing crisis in Marawi, a town on the island of Mindanao. After a week of fighting, the army has taken control of much of the city: the jihadists of the “Maute” group, affiliated with Isis, remain barricaded in 9 “barangay” (districts) out of 96 in Marawi. Half of the residents (about 100,000 people) have abandoned the city, but a few thousand civilians are trapped in the cross fire. According to official figures, 19 civilians have lost their lives, 13 soldiers, four police officers, and 61 members of the Maute group. Among the latter, six fighters are foreign, Indonesians and Malaysians.
“Hostages are hidden, who militants want to use to save their lives and flee, in a building in the city”, the bishop explains to Fides. “We are really in pain, we do not know what the army will do and how the terrorists will react. We have asked for the help of Muslim leaders in Marawi, our friends, while the whole Catholic population is gathered in prayer throughout the country”, he adds.
There is also a humanitarian emergency in the area: more than 40,000 internally displaced persons are in evacuation centers, and as many have found shelter and have been welcomed by relatives or friends in neighboring areas. Catholic communities and civil society associations have been mobilizing for the solidarity and support of refugees.
(Agenzia Fides) – On Wednesday, December 9 the jihadists affiliated to the self-styled Islamic State (Daesh) released other 25 Assyrian Christians, who were part of the large group of hostages kidnapped by them on 23 February, when the jihadi militias had unleashed an offensive against the predominantly Christian Assyrian villages scattered along the valley of the river Khabur, in the northeastern Syrian province of Hassake. According to reports from local sources, and re-launched by the Assyrian International News Agengy (Aina), the group of hostages freed includes men, boys and two children under ten years of age, who after their release reached the town of Tel Tamar.
More than 250 Assyrian Christians of the valley of Khabur were taken hostage by jihadists in February. Since then several groups of prisoners have been released. Last time, on November 24, 10 Assyrian Christians from Khabur were released by Daesh. At the moment, there are roughly 130 hostages of that group who still remain in the hands of the jihadists of the Islamic State. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 10/12/2015)
(Agenzia Fides) – Three of the Assyrian Christians in the valley of Khabur held hostage by jihadists of the Islamic State (Daesh) were subjected to capital punishment by their kidnappers. The video of the execution was released on the jihadi website. In the video, the three Assyrian Christians appear on their knees, dressed in the “usual” orange jumpsuits in a desert area, and are killed with gunshot wounds to the neck from three hooded executioners. Each of the three Assyrian, before being killed, identified themselves by repeating their names and village of origin: Audisho Enwiya and Assur Abraham – from the village of Tel Jazeera – and Basam Michael, from the village of Tel Shamiram.
After their execution, the video ends with three other Assyrians on their knees and in orange jumpsuits in front of the bodies of the three executed. They also reveal their names and village of origin, and one of them added in Arabic, pointing to the bodies of the three Assyrian already killed, “our fate will be the same as these, if you do not follow the correct procedures for our release”.
The execution – warn the creators of the macabre video – took place on the morning of 23 September, the day when Muslims commemorate the “Feast of Sacrifice” (Eid al-Adha).
The three murdered men were part of the group of about 230 Assyrian Christians that the jihadists of Daesh have held hostage since the end of February, when the jihad offensive reached the Christian villages in the valley of the river Khabur. The place of their detention in all probability is still in the al-Shaddadi area, stronghold of Daesh, 60 kilometers from Hassaké. The message conveyed in the video is clear and fierce: the ransom demanded for the release of Christian prisoners still has not been paid, and the executions will continue until the sum requested is paid.
In the following stages of the collective kidnapping, jihadists demanded 100 thousand dollars in exchange for the release of each hostage. Before the answers of those who declared the impossibility of collecting such exorbitant amount of money, negotiations were interrupted. The video with the execution of the three poor Assyrians increases the concern about the fate of Christians in Khabur – including women and children still in the hands of jihadists. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 08/10/2015)
- Pray for those who remain hostage to be freed.
- Pray for their courage and that they will endure.
- Pray for their families who are losing hope.
- Pray all may be comforted.
- Pray for strengthening of faith
- Pray for the lost
A 55-year-old Coptic Christian man was kidnapped and held for ransom. Although his family eventually paid, and the Muslim abductors took the money, they still killed the hapless Copt.
On April 26 in Sohag, Upper Egypt, Makram Nazir was returning home from his second job in the middle of the night when he was seized. His abductors then called his brother and demanded one million Egyptian pounds (equivalent of $131,000 USD).
Being an impossible amount to raise, the Coptic man’s family negotiated a significantly reduced price by phone with the abductors. The brother went to the local police station, provided them with all the information, including recordings of the phone calls, but, according to Watan News, “no one made a single move or took the matter seriously.”
After paying the ransom, three days passed before Nazir’s family found the Coptic man’s corpse in a canal.
Killing Christian hostages even after loved ones pay their ransom is not uncommon in Egypt. Such was the case, for instance, of 6-year-old Cyril Joseph: on May 2013, it was reported that his “family is in tatters after paying 30,000 pounds to the abductor, who still killed the innocent child and threw his body in his sewer system, where the body, swollen and moldy, was exhumed.”
Islamic State militants are demanding up to $30 million in ransom to release the hundreds of Christian hostages in Syria, according to an officer within the Assyrian leadership.
In ongoing negotiations between ISIS terrorists and the Assyrian leadership to free the 250-300 Christians abducted by the militant group in February, ISIS is demanding $100,000 per individual, according to the source.
Third-party Syrian Sunni Muslims from the local area are reported to be brokering the talks between the two groups.
“They know we cannot come up with this kind of money, so they are hoping other groups and countries will come up with the money,” the official said.
A total of 23 hostages have been released to date, while the rest remain in ISIS custody after a Feb. 23 attack on villages in the northern province of al Hasakah.
The reason for those releases was not known, but according to some of the freed hostages, they were prohibited from going back to their homes in Syria and instead told to leave the country.
The Feb. 23 attack was a coordinated raid on 35 Assyrian villages in the Hasaka province, an area where the native Christian community thrived for generations.
Nine Assyrian fighters were killed attempting to defend their villages.
In late January, there were similar reports of a raid by the Islamic State on the same area,and threats to bomb churches if crosses were not removed.
The Islamic State has desecrated churches and Christian graveyards in wholesale fashion in both Iraq and Syria.
Reports at the time indicated the Islamic State was using its Christian hostages as human shields in military confrontations.
ISIS militants transported large groups of Christian captives to areas of intense fighting against Kurdish and Christian militias as they continue to battle for strategic areas along the northeastern Syrian border, according to state-run media.
The Islamic State has long targeted Christian communities in the region, at first warning them to convert to Islam or pay aJizya, a minority tax, and later abducting individuals and desecrating ancient landmarks and artifacts.
On Easter Sunday, ISIS blew up Church of the Virgin Mary in Tal Nasri village, an 80-year-old cathedral in the same Syrian province.
ZAMBOANGA CITY (BosNewsLife)– Hundreds of residents, including many Christians, remained trapped or were held hostage as fighting intensified in the Southern Philippines Saturday, September 14, between government forces and Muslim separatists in suburbs of Zamboanga city.
More than 50 people have died since the siege began Monday, September 9, shattering recent years of relative calm in Zamboanga city, a heavily Christian region 860 kilometers (540 miles) south of Manila, the capital.
There remained concern that rebels were holding hundreds of local residents as human shields. A local church has been involved in tending to at least some of the 70 people who were wounded in the clashes, Christians said.
Yet a Catholic priest caught up in the siege was freed Friday, September 12, leaving behind terrified hostages.
“Whenever the military attacked, the rebels would force us to become their human shield,” the priest, Michael Ufana said in comments aired by Vatican Radio. “Then, after the firefight they would lock us up again in detention.”
Philippine troops stepped up efforts to try to force rebels from buildings they seized in Zamboanga city, but the insurgents are well armed.
Government officials say those trapped in two schools are running short of food. An estimated 60,000 residents have fled, and hundreds of buildings are now destroyed.
Philippines Benigno Aquino III said in a statement that the “prime objective is to save lives,” but he warned his government may use force to end the standoff.
The troubles began Monday, September 9, when some 200 Muslim rebels from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), entered the port city and took hostages.
The attacks by MNLF were seen by observers as an attempt to scupper peace talks between another militant group and the government.
MNLF has been fighting for an Islamic state for Muslim Moro, who comprise the largest non-Christian group in the Philippines, at around 10 percent of a total 97 million Filipinos.
A ceasefire had been due on Saturday, September 14, after telephone talks between Philippine Vice-President Jejomar Binay and the head of a faction of the MNLF, Nur Misuari.
However it remained unclear whether all the fighters answer to that one group with local reports suggesting the force appears to be a coalition of Islamists and independence seekers in this mainly Catholic nation.
The clashes raised questions about the strength of a peace deal agreed last October with the MNLF, to end four decades of conflict that killed 120,000 people and displaced two million. (With additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos)