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Amnesty: Christians were singled out for abuse in Marawi conflict

(Reuters/Romeo Ranoco)Government soldiers stand in front of damaged houses and buildings in Marawi city, Philippines.

A new report produced by Amnesty International has found that a majority of the victims of the Islamic State-allied militants in Marawi were Christians, some of whom were used by the group as human shields or sex slaves.

Over 1,100 combatants and civilians have been killed, including 900 Filipino and foreign militants, and about half a million have been displaced from Marawi since the siege that began on May 23.

The U.K.-based human rights group said that it had conducted 48 interviews with survivors and witnesses to produce its report detailing the violations of humanitarian law during the siege.

The report found that nearly all of the civilians who were executed by the group during the six-month conflict were Christians.

Multiple witnesses recounted 10 separate incidents in which the militants unlawfully killed at least 25 civilians, most of whom were targeted because of their Christian faith.

"Militants often executed Christians at de facto checkpoints, which the Christians were approaching in order to exit the city," the report noted, according to The Christian Post.

"Militants usually performed the killings with a pistol, a rifle, or by cutting the victim's throat. Journalists have reported cases where civilians were beheaded. Most victims were shot and killed immediately after being questioned by the military. Most victims were shot and killed while standing or kneeling on the ground; some were shot and killed while running away," it continued.

Apart from the executions, the militants had taken numerous civilians hostages, who were physically abused, made to do forced labor, used as sex slaves or human shields and forced to make bombs and fight the military.

Amnesty had also accused government forces of committing abuse against civilians. The human rights group cited instances in which civilians fleeing the conflict were detained by members of the Philippine military and subjected to torture.

One victim of the alleged abuse recounted that he and his companions had just crossed a bridge to flee a militant-controlled area, but they were soon detained and beaten up by Philippine marines, who suspected them of being militants.

Amnesty called on the government to conduct an investigation into the allegations and ensure reparations for victims.

Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, the armed forces spokesman, said that the military is committed to respecting humanitarian law and human rights, and vowed to respond to Amnesty's report as soon as it receives a copy of the document.

Last month, U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim had asserted that there were no credible reports or allegations that the armed forces committed any abuse or rights violations against civilians in Marawi.

"It's quite positive that the Philippines military behaved in a responsible manner in a very difficult situation," the ambassador stated.

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