Manila (Agenzia Fides) - "We are happy for the release of Fr. Chito. We thank the Lord and all those who in the world prayed for his release. We praise the efforts of the Filipino army who are doing their utmost to protect the lives of the hostages". With these words, released to Agenzia Fides, the Bishop of Marawi, Edwin De La Pena welcomes the news of the liberation of the vicar of the Apostolic Prelature of Marawi, Fr. Teresito Suganob (called "Chito"), released in the night between Saturday 16 and Sunday, September 17, in the company of another hostage, thanks to an action by the military involved in the siege of Marawi, a city occupied on 23 May by militants of the "Maute" group who swore allegiance to the Islamic State.
Great joy was expressed by the Bishops and the Filipino Catholic communities who spread messages: "Welcome back among us, Fr. Chito". Satisfaction was also expressed by Islamic leaders and communities on the island of Mindanao.
The priest was rescued by government forces after the army regained the mosque of Bato, one of the strongholds of the Maute group in the city center. As reported by military sources, terrorists, engaged in clashes with some soldiers, abandoned the hostages who managed to flee.
The Philippine army is intensifying soldiers for the last stage of the siege and has often called on the jihadists to surrender. It is estimated that the remaining combatants in the center of Marawi are about 80 (including the two leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute) with about 40 hostages. The battle that has been raging for more than three months has resulted in 860 victims: 660 militants and 147 among soldiers. The city appears disfigured by the urban war, also carried out with bombings. According to government estimates, more than $ 50 billion will be needed to rebuild Marawi, a city of about 200,000 people, largely Muslims, currently all displaced in the surrounding areas. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 18/9/2017)