Sun, Aug 05, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Muslim rebels behead nine Filipino hostages

ABDUCTION SPREE In their latest raid, the guerrillas seized more than a dozen Christian Filipinos in a village on southern Basilan island and killed nine of them

AFP , LAMITAN, THE PHILIPPINES

A young villager transports the body of beheaded hostage Rodolfo Francisco by water buffalo cart near the town of Lamitan town yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

Abu Sayyaf Muslim guerrillas who seized more than a dozen hostages in the southern town of Lamitan have beheaded nine of their captives, local officials said yesterday.

Inocente Ramos, mayor of Lamitan town on the island of Basilan, said another four headless bodies were found yesterday 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.

Efren Natalaray, 49, whose 24-year-old son Elmer was among those beheaded, said they were both seized late Thursday when about seven Abu Sayyaf gunmen surrounded a neighbor's house they were visiting.

He said the Abu Sayyaf forced them out, tied their hands behind their backs and made them walk into the forest. 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.

The Abu 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 the Abu Sayyaf were still holding 13 captives.

Pursuing 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.

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