CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines–THE Maute group called up a Roman Catholic bishop and threatened to behead a priest and 14 church workers unless the military stopped its operations in Marawi City.

 Msgr. Elmer Abacahin of the Roman Catholic archdiocese in Cagayan de Oro revealed this yesterday even as he expressed fears that the group would make good its threat against Fr. Chito Suganog and other captives.

Abacahin said the Maute group got in touch with Bishop Edwin dela Peña of the Roman Catholic prelature of Marawi City and told him that the hostages would be beheaded one by one unless the government gave in to its demand.

He said the group asked no ransom but was firm in its demand for the military to stop its operations in Marawi.

Fr. Suganog is the parish priest at the St. Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi City that was seized by the Maute group members as they burned a church and other establishments in the predominantly Muslim city on Tuesday.

Abacahin said Suganog and the church  workers were preparing for a feast that was supposed to have been celebrated yesterday.

“Until now, we have not heard anything about Fr. Chito but authorities have said that the Maute group is still trapped in Marawi,” Abacahin said.

Camp Alagar yesterday confirmed that the Maute group has taken hostage the priest and the church workers.

Police however identified only three church workers taken hostage: Ma. Luisa Colina, Wendelyn Mayormita and Crispina Banrang.

Authorities said the group set afire the María Auxiliadora church, Ninoy Aquino College and the Marawi city jail, and then took control of 11 Marawi barangays: Bangon Saber, Tuca Banggolo, Naga, Monkado, Colony, Caloocan, Marinaut, Mapandi, Matampay, Basak, and Malutlot.

Camp Alagar spokesman Supt. Lemwel Gonda said the Maute group also killed two police officials at noon Wednesday. He identified the dead as Senior Insp. Freddie Solar and Senior Insp. Edwin Placido, Marawi’s police chief.

Gonda also identified two wounded officers. They are PO3 Jeffrey  Mayos and PO2 Bele Tayaban, members of the National Police’s Special Action Force (SAF).

Meanwhile, the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) set up three evacuation centers in Iligan City for thousands of evacuees from Marawi City.

OCD regional director Liza Mazo said the evacuation centers are in Boroon, Maria Cristina and Kabili.

“Daghan na kaayo paingon sa Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, and we prepared kung unsa gyud atong matabang kanila like food packs,” Mazo said.

She said the OCD regional office has been coordinating with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in Camp Aguinaldo and the coordinating councils of Iligan, Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Norte and Cagayan de Oro.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board sent six buses to fetch fleeing civilians along  the boundaries of Marawi.

Mazo said they were counting how many families and persons that were displaced.

Chief Supt. Agripino Javier, police director for northen Mindanao, said the police would continue being on full alert and step up security operations to prevent a spillover of violence from Laoan del Sur.

Javier said all entry and exit points in Region 10 are being watched by the police that set up checkpoints.

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