Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday that Islamic State insurgents rampaging around the city of Marawi ambushed and beheaded a local police chief.
“The chief of police in Malabang on his way home, going back he was stopped by a checkpoint manned by terrorists and I think they decapitated him right then and there,” Duterte said at a news conference.
Marawi was attacked by a coalition of ISIS-affiliated militia groups who sought to rescue the Islamic State’s designated leader in the region, Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon, from capture by Philippine troops. Estimates of the number of terrorist fighters involved in the operation range as high as one hundred. Officials have said much of the murder and vandalism committed by the terrorist horde was intended to distract Philippine forces so Hapilon could escape.
“We are in a state of emergency. I have a serious problem in Mindanao and the ISIS footprints are everywhere,” Duterte said on Wednesday, as he cut a trip to Moscow short and flew home.
Time quotes Archbishop Socrates Villegas of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines reporting that militants stormed the Marawi Cathedral and took a Catholic priest hostage, along with ten worshippers and three church workers.
“He was not a combatant. He was not bearing arms. He was a threat to no one. His capture and that of his companions violates every norm of civilized conflict,” said Villegas.
He said Islamic State forces have threatened to kill these hostages “if government forces unleashed against them are not recalled.” As the UK Independent notes, ISIS has a history of beheading Christians for propaganda videos.