Abu Sayyaf beheads 2 Vietnamese hostages – military

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(CNN Philippines, July 5) — The Abu Sayyaf group beheaded two Vietnamese nationals held hostage for almost eight months, the military said Wednesday.

The Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) identified the victims as Hoang Thong and Hoang Va Hai, two of six crew members of a ship kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf in waters off Basilan in November last year.

Residents found their bodies in Barangay Tumahubong in Sumisip town at around 5:40 a.m. on Wednesday, the military said.

Authorities will conduct a forensic examination in coordination with the Vietnamese embassy, the military added.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the beheading is the Abu Sayyaf's attempt at showing force amid heightened military operations that "degraded their capacity."

"Ito'y pagpapakita ng lakas pero hindi naman na sila ganoon kalakas (This is an attempt to show force but they are not that strong)," AFP Spokesman BGen. Restituto Padilla told a press briefing in Malacañang.

He said the bandit group killed hostages as the government stood by its no-ransom policy.

A July 5 report by Vietnamese newspaper VnExpress International had quoted Vietnam foreign ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang saying "such actions must be punished appropriately."

On November 11 last year, the Basilan faction of the Abu Sayyaf group led by Furudji Indama attacked bulk carrier MV Royal 16 near Sibago Island, Basilan Strait while on its way to Davao City. They took six Vietnamese crew members.

One of them, Hoang Vo, escaped on June 16 when the bandits dispersed following airstrike and artillery fire by government troops in Basilan.

Also read: AFP recovers Vietnamese hostage who escaped from ASG

The three remaining hostages "are subject of the intensive ongoing rescue operations conducted by the troops of Basilan," the Wesmincom said.

Since September last year, the Abu Sayyaf group beheaded two Canadian nationals, one German, and a Filipino it had held hostage – even as President Rodrigo Duterte promised a "day of reckoning" for the Abu Sayyaf.

The military said that since the start of this year, 97 Abu Sayyaf members were killed in military operations in Western Mindanao, where the group is largely based. Sixty-seven others were apprehended while 98 surrendered.

Zamboanga City-based journalist Liza Jocson contributed to this report.