CBCP confirms Maute abduction of priest, other parish staffers

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Fr. Chito Suganob

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 24) — The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) confirmed a priest based in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur has been taken hostage by the Maute group.

This follows the clash between the government forces and the terror group that started on Tuesday, which has resulted in the death of a policeman and two troopers.

READ: Defense chief: 3 gov't troops killed in Marawi clash

CBCP president Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in a statement on Wednesday that members of the terror group forced their way into St. Mary's Cathedral and took Fr. Teresito "Chito" Suganob, along with a few others.

"They have threatened to kill the hostages if the government forces unleashed against them are not recalled," Villegas said.

Meanwhile, CBCP Public Affairs Office Executive Secretary Fr. Jerome Secillano told CNN Philippines' Balitaan that members of the staff and some parishioners were among those abducted, but confirmed reports of the exact number of hostages are yet to come in.

He then cited a report saying a bishop called the Marawi City bishop through phone, but was instead answered by one of the hostage-takers.

READ: Residents flee Marawi City amid clashes

Secillano aded they are now coordinating with the authorities to verify the reports and to ensure the safety of the hostages.

In a separate statement, Secillano appealed to the Maute group not to bring harm to its abductees.

"Terror doesn't have a place in any religion. We call on our Muslim brothers and our government to work for the safe release of hostages….We request all Filipinos to pray for a peaceful resolution to this conflict and for the safety of all hostages," he said.

Likewise, Villegas pleaded to citizens to pray for the safety of Fr. Chito Suganob and the other hostages.

"We beg every Filipino to pray fervently for Fr. Chito and for other hostages. As the government forces ensure that the law is upheld, we beg of them to make the safety of the hostages a primordial consideration," Villegas said.