Philippines: Abu Sayyaf Muslim guerrillas who seized more than a dozen hostages
in this southern town have beheaded nine of their captives, local officials said
Inocente Ramos, mayor of Lamitan town in the island of Basilan, said that
another four headless bodies were found on Saturday in addition to five found on
Friday. Police and civilian volunteers chanced on the bodies, all belonging to
Filipino Christian males, in forested areas and took them to the Lamitan funeral
parlor where hundreds of people showed up to try to identify the deceased.
Natalaray, 49, whose 24-year-old son Elmer was among those beheaded, said they
were both seized late on Thursday when about seven Abu Sayyaf gunmen surrounded
a neighbours' house where they were visiting. He said that the Abu Sayyaf forced
them out, tied their hands behind their backs and made them to walk into the
forests. In the darkness, he managed to escape to a coconut plantation but his
eldest son remained in Abu Sayyaf hands. Natalaray, toting a rifle, wept only
when his son's head was discovered some distance from his body.
Sayyaf seized as many as 34 captives from this largely-Christian town, a
frequent target of their attacks. Beside one of the bodies was a T-shirt with
the message, "Commander Robot. I am the one who ordered this,"
referring to the pseudonym of Ghalib Andang, an Abu Sayyaf commander from the
nearby island of Jolo. Some of the hostages were released or escaped. Mayor
Ramos said that the Abu Sayyaf were still holding 13 captives. The body of a
slain Muslim man from another area was also found by searchers but it could not
be determined if this was related to the Abu Sayyaf raid on Thursday.
soldiers and government militiamen clashed with Abu Sayyaf raiders on the
outskirts of Lamitan on Friday and killed one of them but the rest escaped, said
Lieutenant General Gregorio Camiling, head of military forces in the south. The
armed band in Basilan is also holding two Americans and 19 Filipinos who were
kidnapped in a spree of abductions that began in May. The latest Abu Sayyaf raid
was a fresh embarrassment for the government, which has failed to capture the
group for over two months despite the deployment of more than 5,000 soldiers and
police in Basilan.
Alberto Gepilano, spokesman of military forces in Basilan, said on Saturday that
they were speeding up the arming of civilian volunteers in Lamitan to help guard
against incursions by the Abu Sayyaf. The Abu Sayyaf seized 20 people, including
three Americans, in a western island resort in May and then fled to Basilan
where they took a number of locals hostage. They freed some hostages reportedly
for hefty ransom payments but also killed four Filipino captives. They have also
boasted of beheading an American, Californian Guillermo Sobero, although his
body has not been found.
spokesman Brigadier General Edilberto Adan said that the latest kidnapping raid
on Lamitan was intended to divert the military's attention away from their
pursuit of the main Abu Sayyaf force holding the Americans. "This is a mere
tactical setback. We have not lost the war," Adan said in an interview with
ABS-CBN television in Manila. Despite the raid on Lamitan, the military was
continuing to close in on the Abu Sayyaf group holding the two Americans and 19
Filipinos, Adan said. "It is just a matter of time," he said.
attack on Lamitan was the first major Abu Sayyaf response to a military campaign
which began last month to deprive the self-proclaimed Islamic separatists of
their support base. Last week, the rebels threatened reprisals after the
government detained about 120 suspected Abu Sayyaf sympathisers. Since the
military began its pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan in June, 21 soldiers and
59 Abu Sayyaf members have been killed, Adan said. Some 60 Abu Sayyaf members
have also been charged and appeared in court, he added.