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Militants Take Priest, Others Hostage in Philippines

A government troop gestures as he passes an armoured personnel carrier posted along a main highway of Pantar town, Lanao Del Norte, after residents start to evacuate their hometown of Marawi city, southern Philippines, May 24, 2017.

Muslim extremists in the Philippines have taken a local Catholic priest and others hostage after forcing their way into a cathedral in the southern city of Marawi.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said the hostages included 10 worshippers and three church employees, and that the militants were demanding the government withdraw its forces from the area.

Violence in Marawi began Tuesday when security forces raided the hideout of Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon, who has proclaimed allegiance to Islamic State.

Marawi, Philippines
Marawi, Philippines

President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law for 60 days in the southern province of Mindanao, which includes Marawi.

He said Wednesday he would consider imposing martial law in other parts of the country if the militant activity spreads.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said dozens of gunmen had occupied city hall in Marawi and burned a church and houses in an assault that killed at least two soldiers and a police officer.