MANILA, Philippines - The Abu Sayyaf has beheaded one of its Filipino captives in Patikul, Sulu, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) confirmed yesterday.
Noel Besconde, one of the crewmembers of F/B Remona seized in the Celebes Sea in December, was executed at around 2:30 p.m. on April 13, according to Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, chief of Joint Task Force Sulu (JTFS).
Sobejana said they received the information on the same day, but did not confirm it until the AFP secured a copy of a video of the killing allegedly perpetrated by the group of Abu Sayyaf leader Hatib Sawadjaan.
The search and retrieval operation for the victim’s body is ongoing in the western part of Patikul.
“We have confirmed it because we have seen the video and we have reports on the ground. We are now doing our best to locate the cadaver and bring the body to the family,” Sobejana said.
The military said the beheading was more of a necessity on the part of the bandit group, as the victim was reportedly getting sickly.
Sobejana said dragging a sick captive hampers the movement of the bandits, who have constantly been on the run to evade pursuing soldiers.
He said the group had probably contacted the victim’s family to ask for P3 million as ransom, which they failed to obtain as the Bescondes are not rich and the military is firm on the no-ransom policy.
Initially, the AFP did not believe the information, thinking it was just propaganda.
Sobejana said the video showed scenes not similar with previous beheadings wherein the terrorists appeared first to be doing some rituals.
“This one showed the killing was done in haste,” he said.
In February, the Abu Sayyaf beheaded the 70-year-old German, Jurgen Kantner, for failure to pay P30-million ransom.
Pursuit operation against the Abu Sayyaf bandits who stormed Bohol last week is ongoing, even as AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año declared that the terror threat in the province is over.
“Our assault team continues scouring the area,” he said, noting Army soldiers are hunting down the remaining bandits including Joselito Melloria, alias Alih, whose photographs are being distributed in the island.
Melloria allegedly served as a guide for Abu Sayyaf in Inabanga, where an encounter broke out last Tuesday and resulted in the death of four bandits, three soldiers and a police officer.
Año said the swift military and police action resulted in the killing of Maumar Askali, alias Abu Rami, leader and spokesman for the bandit group.
Año earlier expressed confidence that the military could eliminate the Abu Sayyaf by June 30.
‘Show must go on’
The Bohol clash between the military and the bandits will not deter a scheduled conference of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the province on April 19-20.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) gave assurance that security measures are in place to protect the participants and delegates and secure the event.
“The military and the police are on top of the situation. We assure delegates, tourists and residents we are exerting our best efforts for Bohol,” DILG officer-in-charge Catalino Cuy said. — By Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) With Cecille Suerte Felipe
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