Marawi Muslim leader hid Christians in his house for 12 days, then helped them escape

Marawi Muslim leader hid Christians in his house for 12 days, then helped them escape

He refused to leave the city and abandon them. This and other stories on the programme Rebellion in Marawi.

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For 12 days, this Muslim community leader hid a group of Christians in his house, as extremist rebels in Marawi went on a killing spree. It's one of many tales of heroism. Watch Rebellion In Marawi.

MARAWI: His friends and relatives were begging him to vacate his house and the city under siege.

But Muslim clan leader Norodin Lucman refused – and he could not tell them the reason, which was that he was giving refuge to a group of civilians whose lives would surely be forfeit if they were found by the extremist rebels.

“I cannot tell them that I have Christians in my house for fear that somebody might get wind of the information and tell the ISIS (group),” said Mr Norodin, who refused to abandon them.

It was the initial days of the rebellion in Marawi launched by extremists under the black flag of ISIS, and the rebels were executing Christians they came across.

In the midst of the bloodshed, stories have emerged of Muslims – who form the majority in the southern Philippine city - putting their lives on the line to protect Christians and to help any desperate souls seeking escape from the bombing by government troops and shooting.

Surviving civilians in Marawi have been caught in the cross fire between the extremists and government military bombs and bullets.

When the extremist militants first stormed into Marawi in late May, days before Ramadan, Mr Norodin thought the fighting would be over in just a couple of days.

So he told the group hiding in his house to “stay put, relax”. “Nothing will happen to you while I’m here,” he assured them.

But the fighting dragged on, with several close calls – like the time the rebels came knocking on his door. Fortunately their leader knew him as a respected community leader.

DIE OF HUNGER, OR RISK GETTING SHOT

On the twelfth day, they ran out of food and water. Staying put was no longer an option.

“Come what may, because these people were going to die of hunger - rather than ISIS bullets or military bombs -  I had to make a decision,” said Mr Norodin.

“After dawn prayers, I woke them up and said, ‘Let's get ready, we are going to break out’.”

He instructed the men to carry the children and the women to dress like Muslims with their heads covered, so that they would look like families. And he told them to keep shouting “Allahuakbar” (Allah is great, in Arabic).

The carnage in downtown Marawi. It looked "like Aleppo," said Mr Norodin.

It was a long and terrifying walk to get to the other side of town across a bridge, with snipers on the rooftops watching them intently.

As they reached the mouth of the bridge, a militant blocked his path. It turned out to be a young man he knew. “He motioned to his partners, on the other side of the bridge, to let us pass.

“And I was so glad that he recognised me. Because if not, then I don't know what would happen,” he said.

Watch: The danger they were in (5:33)


Three months on, the conflict continues to rage in Marawi, and more than 200,000 people have fled their homes in the city of more than a quarter of a million people.

The bridge has become their main escape route, and a group of volunteers have been trying to help those who survived the wave of violence to make their way across, to the relative safety of various temporary evacuation centres.

KILLING THOSE WHO CAN’T RECITE THE KORAN

In the centre of the city, five Muslim police officers found themselves protecting five Christian construction workers who got caught in the crossfire with the rebels.

Their situation was getting desperate – under threat from the extremists and from their own military, who warned them that they were going to bomb the place.

Police officer Lumla Lidasan said: “We were surrounded. We didn’t know there were so many ISIS (members) around here. We needed to get out.”

And so the entire group made a run for it - but they were halted by an ISIS militant.

Police officer Ricky Alwi recalled: “He was asking, ‘Are you Christian?’ We said ‘There aren’t any, everyone's Muslim’.

Two of the police officers who helped save the group of workers.

Then the man asked one of the construction workers if he was Muslim. The extremists had taken to ordering people to recite the Koran, and killing those who couldn’t, so the worker didn’t dare to answer.

Mr Lumla stepped in. “I told him he can’t answer because he’s in shock.

“(The militant) asked us to follow him but once he went one way, we ran in the other direction.”

Said one of the grateful workers who was saved by the police officers: “We're really thankful. Had they left us there, we would be dead by now.”

Watch the Channel NewsAsia special, Rebellion in Marawi, here


Source: CNA/yv