A MUSLIM man in the Philippines has been celebrated as a hero for saving the lives of dozens of Christians who sought refuge in his house to evade execution by Islamic State-linked militants during the height of a siege in Marawi.
According to Kicker Daily, Norodin Alonto Lucman, a well-known former politician and traditional clan leader, recounted how he hid Christian workers when the militants went on a rampage in the majority-Muslim southern city.
Norodin, who spoke to foreign journalists on Friday said some of the Christians had worked at a tower near his residence and the number ballooned to 64 when militants launched a manhunt for Christians to kill or take as hostages.
“I had an ordeal because one day before the attack, there were some Christian workers who were in the house, fixing the small tower,” he said in an interview.
He said the siege had prevented people from leaving the city and prompted him to protect those who sought his help.
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“The following days, other Christian workers took refuge in my house. There were about 64 of them in my hands and I was very determined nothing happens to them.”
He said there was, however, a close shave with the militants who visited his house while the Christians sought refuge there. Norodin said out of respect to him as a leader, the militants left his residence when they were asked to leave.
He said the Christians could have easily been killed if the militants had found them hiding in his house.
“If they knew there were Christians in my house, they would all be beheaded and executed.”
Earlier Reuters quoted Norodin as saying he and his guests had begun their escape march from another area, holding white flags and moving briskly.
“As we walked, others joined us,” he told reporters. “We had to pass through a lot of [militant] snipers.”
Some of the civilians were stopped and asked if there were any Christians among them, said Jaime Daligdig, a Christian construction worker.
“We shouted ‘Allahu akbar’,” he told Reuters, adding thanks to that Muslim rallying cry they were allowed to pass.
Those who fled included teachers from Dansalan College, a Protestant school torched on the first day of the battle.
Christians have been killed and taken hostage by the militants, a mix of local fighters from the Maute group and other Islamist outfits, as well as foreigners who joined the cause under the IS banner.
Most Filipinos are Christians, but Mindanao has a larger proportion of Muslims and Islam is embraced by the vast majority in Marawi City.
Fighting in Marawi City between the Maute militants and Philippine troops has been raging on for two weeks now.
The clashes began on May 23 when Philippine forces staged a raid to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a wanted leader of IS-linked Maute and the Abu Sayyaf terror network, following tip-offs on his hideout.
Authorities had listed down 200 men wanted for helping the gunmen involved in the clash with government security forces, which had led to the deaths of nearly 200 people.