Nation


Militants behead 2 Vietnamese hostages -- Army




Posted on July 06, 2017


AMID the still ongoing government offensive in Marawi City and similar encounters with terror groups in Mindanao, the military confirmed on Wednesday that Islamist militants have beheaded two Vietnamese sailors held hostage for eight months in Basilan.

Government troops found the remains of the two hostages early Wednesday morning in the island province, a stronghold of the notorious Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group, military spokeswoman Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay said.

“This is a desperate measure of the Abu Sayyaf Group because they see they have no gains from their kidnap-for-ransom activity,” Ms. Petinglay told AFP.

Abu Sayyaf, originally a loose network of militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network, has splintered into factions, with some continuing to engage in banditry and kidnappings.

One faction, led, among others, by the notorious Maute family, has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, with members among those holding parts of Marawi, the largely Catholic nation’s most important Islamic city.

Militants continue to occupy parts of Marawi despite a US-backed military offensive there that has claimed more than 460 lives and displaced nearly 400,000 people since it began in May.

The two Vietnamese were seized last November along with four other Vietnamese crew members of a vessel that was boarded by the militants off the southern region of Mindanao, the military said.

“One of the six crewmen was rescued last month and three remain in captivity,” Ms. Petinglay said.

According to her, Abu Sayyaf militants are holding a total of 22 hostages, including 16 foreigners.

The Abu Sayyaf is known to behead its hostages unless ransom payments are made.

German national Jurgen Kantner, 70, was beheaded in February after the kidnappers’ demand for P30 million ($600,000) was not met.

Last year, the group beheaded two Canadian hostages.

In another development on Wednesday, authorities arrested three alleged members of the Maute group and seized explosives in an apartment in Aluba, arangay Macasandig, Cagayan de Oro City.

The raid by the martial law-Special Action Group on the unit rented by a certain Irene Romato Idris at Residencia Apartment was covered by a search warrant issued by Judge Dennis Alcantar, Regional Trial Court-Branch 18.

Idris, who Chief Inspector Mardy Hortillosa, Cagayan de Oro police spokesperson claimed was a financier of the Maute group, was not present during the raid.

But the raiders arrested Gazim Mantawazi Abdullah, Taher Romato, and Monaliza Solaiman Romato alias “Monay.”

Mr. Hortillosa described Romato as a niece of Okinta Romato Maute -- mother of the brothers who founded the extremist group -- and, like her aunt, also a financier of the group that has continued to battle government forces in Marawi since May 23.

The police officer also claimed that, following the Maute matriarch’s capture last month, the task of overseeing bomb attacks to divert the military’s attention and allow the gunmen in Marawi to escape, had fallen to Idris.

Seized from the apartment were four M203 grenades, a blasting cap, a nine-volt battery and holder, C4 explosive, detonating cord, 19 10-watt incandescent bulbs, a jungle knife, and suspected ammonium nitrate.

The suspects were brought to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Region 10 office.

Also early on Wednesday, combined elements of the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police arrested six suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) following an hour-long clash at Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.

The weapons seized from the terrorists include two barrett 50-caliber sniper rifles, 1 MG60 machine gun, 1 rocket-propelled grenade, 1 M14 rifle, and 1 M16 rifle.

“We wanted to prevent the BIFF from initiating terroristic actions against peaceful communities,” Col. Bismarck Soliba, commander of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, said.

Maj. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, for his part, said: “I am glad that the Army has preempted terrorist attacks against peaceful communities. We would like to ask the help of the people in sharing information about possible acts of violence.”

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, who led the 33rd Infantry Battalion in-charge of the operation, said in a text message to reporters that “no one was hurt among the troops.” -- reports by Agence France-Presse, interaksyon.com, and Jil Danielle M. Caro