Abu Sayyaf kidnappers behead two Christians

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 August, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 August, 2002, 12:00am

Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremists yesterday beheaded two Christian men they had kidnapped, leaving the heads and a warning note in a market on the southern Philippine island of Jolo.

In the note the killers said it was an act of jihad and that 'those who do not believe in Allah will suffer the same fate'.

The two victims, Lemuel Mantolo and Leonel Mantic, were members of a group of six Jehovah's Witness missionaries seized from their vehicle two days ago by armed men. The fate of the four remaining captives, all women, is not known.

The beheadings occurred barely three weeks after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced that Abu Sayyaf had been crushed by a joint Philippine-US military effort.

Yesterday, government officials said at least three battalions were being rushed to the town of Patikul, where the beheadings took place.

Some officials were reluctant to identify the kidnappers as Abu Sayyaf.

Three generals and National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said the crime could be the work of an armed gang.

But a driver for the victims recognised one of the abductors as Muin Maloud Sahiron, a nephew of Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron.

Abduction and beheading are the trademark crimes of Abu Sayyaf.

The group claims to be fighting for a fundamentalist Islamic state in the southern Philippines, but many see them as no more than bandits.