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Marawi Muslims Help Trapped Christians Escape the City as Death Toll Rises

Muslims in Marawi, Philippines helped 39 Christians flee the city amid intensifying gunfights between ISIS-linked fighters and members of the military.
Residents ride on tricycles as they leave a residential neighbourhood Marawi City due to fighting between government soldiers and the Maute militant group, in southern Philippines May 27, 2017. Reuters/Erik De Castro

Muslims in Marawi, Philippines helped 39 Christians flee the city amid intensifying gunfights between ISIS-linked fighters and members of the military.

Senior Supt. Oscar Nantes, police director in Lanao del Sur province, said the Christians had been trapped and hiding in houses for 36 hours, lying flat on their backs so the Maute group members in the area would not see them. They were aided by two elderly Muslims, who gave them a place to hide, PhilStar reported.

The 39 Christians were then rescued by a team initiated by Salma Jayne Tamano, the province's information officer, and her relatives, who are all Muslims. 

According to Myrna Jocelyn Henry of the Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team (HEART) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Marawi Muslim residents have helped more than 100 Christians relocate to safety. 

"The ARMM government is thankful to these Muslim Marawi residents for helping save the lives of non-Muslims," Henry said, according to PhilStar.

There was also an unconfirmed report of 42 Christians rescued by a Muslim state prosecutor from a school that the militants torched last Friday. The state prosecutor reportedly gave them refuge in a building and helped them escape a few at a time, Henry said.

Since Friday, more than 100 people, including civilians, have died because of the fighting. The death toll continues to rise as more dead bodies are discovered.

On Saturday evening, the bodies of women and children, eight in all, were found about 300 meters away from Mindanao State University.  

On Sunday, authorities found the bloodied bodies of eight men thrown in a ditch. Their hands were tied, and beside them was a cardboard with the word "munafiq," which means hypocrite, according to GMA News.

The men were workers at a local bakery who were caught trying to escape to a nearby city, two witnesses told ABS-CBN. The militants reportedly separated from the group those whom they identified as Christians.

The fighting between the military and the Maute group erupted on Friday when the military was conducting a "surgical operation" against Jihadist group leader Isnilon Hapilon, who is listed by the FBI among the world's most wanted terrorists.

The soldiers received information that Hapilon was holed out in an apartment protected by members of the Maute group. As they proceeded with the operation, they found out the Maute's core group was also in the apartment.

The clash began until it spread to the other parts of the city. 

As Marawi residents continue to flee the war-torn city, neighboring Iligan City declared a temporary lockdown from 12 midnight to 3 a.m. Monday. This was to prevent the militants from entering the city, as there had been reports that some of them had been pretending to be refugees in an attempt to go in.

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