'Bring him back alive,' kin of Maute hostage pleads
ILIGAN CITY, Philippines – Anaidah Rascal already lost her father Edris to the war, killed by sniper fire in May while he was trying to escape the battle area. She's lost contact with her brother Jalal since their last conversation in July, but has never given up praying he's still alive.
On Tuesday, September 26, Jalal managed to borrow a cellphone to call his family to say he's still alive but he had been hostaged by the Maute Group. It confirmed reports that had reached the family.
"Hiling ko po, maawa po kayo. Sana po matulungan ninyo kapatid ko na ilabas doon na buhay at makabalik sa amin nang buhay, katulad ng ginawa niyo kay Father Chito at iba pang nakalabas doon," a crying Anida said before the cameras, saying it may be her only hope to reach out to the military.
(We ask for mercy. Please help my brother to escape the war zone and return to us alive, just like what you did when you rescued Father Chito and other hostages.)
Jalal is a 30-year-old kagawad in Marawi. He ran a store and a photo studio in Banggolo. He and about 40 other hostages remain in the battle area, based on estimates given by the military.
At least 5 hostages, including Catholic priest Father Teresito "Chito" Soganub, had been rescued.
Jalal was scared when he called, said Anaidah. The soldiers had surrounded them and he was begging for help. Jalal was unable to say more because the line was immediately cut.
Anaidah vowed his brother doesn't know how to shoot a gun and couldn't be fighting for the Mautes. She said they received information that her brother was tasked to help take care of wounded Maute fighters.
"Hostage po siya. Kasi mayroon kaming nababalitaan na ginawa siyang isa sa mga gumagamot. Kasi hindi naman siya marunong humawak ng baril. Pinapatulong siya kapag may nasusugatan," she said.
(He's a hostage. We've heard reports that he's been tasked with taking care of the wounded because he doesn't know how to shoot a gun. He's asked to help when there are wounded Maute fighters.)
The hostages were previously holed up in Bato Mosque but were moved to another area when military offensives forced them to abandon the mosque.
Jalal is the only boy among 6 siblings. "Masaya po kami na malaman na buhay siya, na malungkot, na natatakot sa sitwasyon niya doon ngayon," said Anaidah. (We are happy he is alive. But we are also sad and scared because of his situation there.)
Jalal and his father chose to stay behind to watch their house and belongings when Anaidah and the rest of the family evacuated in May. Anaidah said her father didn't think the clashes would last for more than 5 days.
Anaidah said they tried to go back for them but they weren't allowed to return anymore because the clashes had intensified. On May 29, they both tried to escape the war zone but were trapped in the firefight. It was there that Edris was killed by sniper fire.
Jalal was still able to call his family after his father's death. He stopped calling in July.
Troops have pushed the Maute fighters to a small area in Marawi City since they launched their final push to end the war.