Abu Sayyaf barbarism
Abu Sayyaf executes two innocents
The Abu Sayyaf bandits execute yet more innocent hostages. They are bandits pure and simple.
Abus behead 2 captives
By Roel Pareño
The Philippine Star 08/23/2002
ZAMBOANGA CITY — Suspected Abu Sayyaf terrorists have decapitated two of the six hostages they seized on Tuesday and dumped the heads in the public market of Jolo, Sulu, officials said yesterday.
Brig. Gen. Romeo Tolentino, commander of the 104th Army Brigade, said the heads were wrapped separately in plastic bags and were found in different spots at the Jolo public market on Serrantes street.
President Arroyo condemned the beheading and dispatched Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes and Armed Forces chief Gen. Roy Cimatu to Sulu to oversee the rescue operations mounted by the military and police.
"The President is very concerned about the safety of the hostages and, just like any decent Filipino, condemns the atrocities committed by this group," said Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye.
Tolentino identified the victims as Lemuel Montulo, 21, and Leonel Mantic, both members of the Kingdom Hall Jehovah's Witness. Their severed heads were found separately on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
Tolentino said the heads of the two hostages were found in bags with notes denouncing them as "infidels." The bags were left at food stands about 100 meters apart in the market, with the attached notes calling for jihad or Islamic holy war, including a passage from the Quran written in Arabic and the local Tausug dialect.
"They did this because they want to punish the nonbelievers of Allah," he said.
The Jehovah's Witness congregation in Jolo reported that the torso of one of the beheaded victims was found yesterday afternoon near the place where they were abducted on Tuesday morning.
Correcting earlier police reports, Tolentino said there were actually four women in the group of eight people seized by armed men in Barangay Kaunayan in Patikul, Sulu.
Two of the victims, Muslim spouses Solaiman and Nadamalyn Sulaiman, who served as guides of the group, were released a few hours after the abduction.
Tolentino identified the remaining hostages as Mantic's wife Emily, 23, Flora Montolo, 40, Montolo's sister-in-law Cleofe, 46, and Norie Bendejo, 41, a native of Jolo.
The victims were also earlier identified as dealers of the American direct-selling firm Avon Products Inc.
But while authorities have established that the victims, mostly Zamboanga residents, were in Sulu simply to distribute cosmetics and other beauty products to their sales contacts, Avon's local office denied that they were Avon dealers. Rescue operations
Hours after their release, Solaiman reported the incident to the police and identified one of the two kidnappers as Abdulmuin Sahiron, nephew of one-armed bandit leader Radulan Sahiron.
But Cimatu said in Bacolod City that the kidnappers may not be Abu Sayyaf terrorists but "religious fanatics" who were offended by the Jehovah's Witnesses' preaching in the predominantly Muslim town of Patikul, about 30 kilometers northeast of Sulu's capital of Jolo.
"This is an unfortunate incident which seems to have a religious flavor to it," Cimatu said after inspecting the 303rd Army Brigade headquarters in Negros Occidental.
The military said intelligence reports reveal that Radullan Sahiron, leader of one of the Abu Sayyaf factions based in Sulu, may have joined forces with Abu Sayyaf overall chieftain Khadafi Janjalani to form a group of more than 100 men.
The Army's 4th Scout Ranger battalion was deployed to Patikul to augment three regular battalions of the Army's 104th Brigade based in Sulu.
Two MF520 attack helicopters and an OV-10 Bronco bomber also took off from the Edwin Andrews Airbase here early dawn yesterday, apparently to provide air support to ground troops in Sulu. A kin's plaint
Meanwhile, the family of three of the victims appealed to the military yesterday to stop their present offensive to secure the lives of the hostages and called on the terrorist group to release the victims who cannot afford to pay any ransom.
Junie Montolo, older brother of the beheaded Lemuel, asked the military to stand down on its search-and-rescue operation so they could negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf terrorists.
"Their lives are endangered now," Junie said. "It will be better if the military would lie low so we could coordinate with Patikul local officials and secure the release of the victims."
"It is very difficult to accept the way my brother lost his life in the hands of bad people. It was a brutal death. But we can do nothing more than leave it up to Jehovah," he added.
"We want to know if the kidnappers will ask for ransom, but we cannot really give anything because we are poor. One of their victims even has a sick husband and she was only there to earn a living," Montolo said.
He explained that Cleofe Montolo was the wife of another brother who had just been admitted to a public hospital in Zamboanga City and was just forced to go to leave so she could distribute cosmetic products to their sales contacts in Sulu.
While Montolo confirmed that his three relatives were indeed Jehovah's Witnesses, he said they were only in Sulu to earn a living and not to preach as claimed by newspapers.
The latest abductions came less than three weeks after US troops concluded maneuvers on nearby Basilan island. Several hundred American servicemen remain on Basilan conducting civic action and medical missions.
The kidnappings also occurred a little more than two months after the abduction of three Indonesian seamen who are the object of another search-and-rescue operation in Sulu.
The military said the latest kidnapping may be a diversionary tactic to slow down the rescue mission for the Indonesians or a move to gain "human shields" they could use against pursuing government troops.
In May last year, the Abu Sayyaf seized three American and 17 Filipinos from a tourist resort off Palawan and held them in the jungles of Basilan for more than a year.
The terrorists later occupied a hospital on the island, where they took more hostages after some of the Filipinos were released for ransom. However, some of the hostages were beheaded.
The hostages included US missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham and Peruvian-American Guillermo Sobero, who was later beheaded by the bandits.
Government troops, aided by US military advisers, rescued Gracia Burnham on June 7 this year but her husband and Filipino nurse Edibora Yap were killed in the crossfire. - With reports from Marichu Villanueva, Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero, Antonieta Lopez, AFP, Reuters and AP
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