The Latest: Husband calls for release of Philippine hostages

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – The Latest on the siege of a Philippine city that led President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in the south (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

The husband of a church worker abducted along with a priest and parishioners by Muslim extremists in a southern Philippine city is appealing for the release of the captives.

Jaime Mayormita’s wife Wendelyn is among more than a dozen people taken from a cathedral compound in Marawi city. He said Wednesday he is worried about his wife, a secretary at the cathedral, because she does not have her medicines for a heart problem.

“I hope they free them, including Fr. Chito and my wife and their companions, because they are innocent,” he told Manila’s DZMM radio.

The retired policeman said he and his wife had been texting and calling each other since the violence erupted Tuesday. But when he last called her, someone else answered her phone, telling him to ask the military not to go near the area.

Mayormita said he had not been able to contact his wife since then.

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3:50 p.m.

The 175,000-strong Philippine National Police has been put on full alert nationwide and all unit commanders directed to strengthen security in all vital installations and public places.

The alert follows fighting in southern Marawi city, where Muslim militants abducted a Catholic priest and more than a dozen churchgoers while laying siege to the predominantly Muslim area.

President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in the southern third of the nation and warned he will enforce it harshly.

In metropolitan Manila’s Quiapo district, where a bomb blast earlier this month killed two people and wounded four others in a Muslim community, police put up checkpoints on Wednesday, stopping motorists to inspect cars and checking documents of motorcycle riders.

Police said the May 6 blast was sparked by a personal feud, but the Islamic State group claimed its fighters were responsible.

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2 p.m.

A Philippine Roman Catholic church leader says a priest and a number of churchgoers have been taken hostage from a cathedral by gunmen in a southern city.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, and another church official said Wednesday that gunmen forced their way into a cathedral in Marawi city and seized the Rev. Chito Suganob and more than a dozen churchgoers and staff as fighting raged between government troops and Muslim militants.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared martial law in the south because of the militants’ siege of the city. He was returning home early from a trip to Moscow to deal with the crisis.

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