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Militants burn church and take hostages in Philippines

South East Asia

Militants burn church and take hostages in Philippines

Government troops check a vehicle evacuating residents from their hometown of Marawi [Reuters]

Islamist militants have burnt a church and taken Christians hostage in Marawi, a city on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines according to a report by persecuted church agency, Barnabas Fund.

A 100-strong mob of armed men launched an assault on Marawi on Tuesday 23 May prompting thousands of residents to flee, according to a report. Martial law was imposed across the island by President Rodrigo Duterte.

A local Christian leader said that the Islamists seized a pastor, 10 worshippers and three church workers and are threatening to kill them unless the government withdraws its security forces.

According to Barnabas Fund, the government of the Philippines has been engaged in a decades-long conflict with Muslim separatists in the southern Philippines, which has a significant Muslim population.

The previous government agreed a peace deal with some Islamist armed groups in 2014 and also proposed creating an autonomous region in Bangsamoro – an area which includes the city of Marawi – with its own laws, which would have allowed for the implementation of sharia. Public opposition to the deal has resulted in the legislation to enact it being delayed, and some Islamists have continued their violent campaign.