MARAWI, the Philippines — A Roman Catholic priest seized by militants loyal to the Islamic State has been shown in a video making an appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to halt a weeklong military offensive that has devastated this southern Philippine city.
The military said on Wednesday that it was analyzing the video, which was released on social media on Tuesday. It shows the priest, Teresito Suganob, who was abducted by gunmen last week with some parishioners, appealing for the group’s safety.
The video does not indicate when or where it was recorded, but the background shows what appears to be a war-torn area and bursts of gunfire can be heard.
Father Suganob and the parishioners were abducted during heavy firefights around Marawi, a city of 200,000 on the island of Mindanao that has been virtually reduced to a ghost town.
Violence broke out early last week when troops and police officers moved into the city to capture Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who had been spotted there. But government forces met intense resistance from Abu Sayyaf gunmen and from members of the heavily armed Maute group, who are loyal to the Islamic State.
In the recorded message, Father Suganob said he was among more than 200 people, including women and children, who had been abducted. His assertion about the number of hostages could not be verified.
“Mr. President, we are in the midst of this war,” Father Saganub said as bursts of gunfire could be heard. “We are asking for your help to please give what they are asking for. To withdraw forces away from Lanao del Sur del Sur and Marawi City, and to stop the air attacks, and to stop the cannons.”
The captives “want to live another day, another month,” he continued. “We want to live another year, two years.”
Standing in front of what appeared to be debris and burned buildings, he said of his captors, “They do not ask for anything, Mr. President,” adding: “For all we know this is their place. They are ready to die for their religion.”
Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, a spokesman for the Philippine military, said military forensics experts had viewed the video and were analyzing its authenticity. But he dismissed it as propaganda.
“It means that they’re fighting for survival, they’re trapped” General Padilla said.
The continuing aerial bombardment of Marawi and intermittent clashes on the city’s streets have trapped civilians and made it difficult for humanitarian assistance to reach them. Rebel snipers positioned themselves at vantage points as troops moved into the city, using armored vehicles as cover.
On a street near the Marawi State University, hastily abandoned shops provided a glimpse of a city in chaos. At least two stores were marked with graffiti reading “I love ISIS,” “Welcome ISIS” or simply “ISIS” with a drawing of a skull and cross bones.
Bananas and melons were left to rot on market stalls, and slippers and other footwear were scattered. A partly burned white dump truck was abandoned in the middle of the road, and many buildings were pockmarked by bullets or destroyed by flames.
Police commandos and troops are guarding portions of the city that have been taken back by the military, and officials say it will be only a matter of time before things return to normal.
On Tuesday, troops recovered a huge cache of firearms from fallen rebel positions, including a 50-calibre machine gun capable of hitting targets more than a mile away. The troops also found pistols, rocket-propelled grenades, communications radios, bandoleers of ammunition and two Islamic State flags.
“This 50-calibre machine gun is a game changer,” said Maj. Rowan Rimas, commander of the Marine forces on the ground. “This can destroy our tanks.”
Asked if the rebels would ever win the war in Marawi, Mr. Rimas said: “No, never. We will go after them.”
Mr. Duterte, the president, placed the entire island of Mindanao under military rule after the siege began.