In a gruesome discovery, the bodies of two Vietnamese sailors have been found beheaded on a tropical island paradise in the southern Philippines.
The victims’ remains were found early Wednesday morning by Philippine troops on the island of Basilan which, despite its postcard-worthy scenery, is the perfect stronghold for Islamic State-aligned terror group, Abu Sayyaf.
Authorities have identified the two men as Hoang Trung Thong and Hoang Va Hai, who were believed to have been among six cargo ship crew members taken hostage by the group last November.
About 10 armed Abu Sayyaf militants attacked the MV Royal 16 vessel, kidnapping the captain and crew. They had been holding them hostage for eight months before the two men were executed.
One hostage was rescued last month and three others remain with the terror group, known widely throughout the region for taking hostages and demanding ransoms.
Abu Sayyaf started in the 1990s, previously linked to al-Qaeda before pledging allegiance to Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In February German national, Jurgen Kantner, was beheaded when ransom demands of $600,000 were not met and in 2015 two Canadian hostages met the same fate.
In 2011 Australian man, Warren Richard Rodwell, was captured by the group and held hostage in the jungle for 15 months.
His abductors filmed him in proof-of-life videos to be sent to his wife and family. In the videos, Rodwell is seen begging for his life and looking frail and thin.
“To my family, please do whatever to raise the US$2 million [$2.75m] they are asking for my release as soon as possible,” he said in one video.
The then-53-year-old was eventually freed at a cost estimated to be just shy of $100,000, reportedly found frail and disoriented wandering a coast town in the southern Philippines.
The catch-and-release scenario is usually how the situation plays out but this is not the first time the group has resorted to violent executions. Philippines Military spokeswoman Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay says the executions are the result of a failure to meet demands.
“This is a desperate measure of the Abu Sayyaf Group because they see they have no gains from their kidnap-for-ransom activity,” she told AFP.
Professor Mark Turner from the University of NSW says the group’s ideologies often change. He says it’s difficult to know who is in charge or what the group stands for.
“In the 90s the group was religiously motivated and interested in creating a caliphate,” Turner told news.com.au.
“They appeared to be setting up this Islamic state but their purpose became gradually less and less clear. In the early days there were a few bombs, then they became infamous for kidnapping people.”
He said Abu Sayyaf’s main goal is to make money and therefore those who are kidnapped are often released when terms of ransom are met. Occasionally, as was the case recently, hostages are violently executed.
The death toll left behind by Abu Sayyaf is rising, as are their number of captives: the total number of hostages stands at 22, including 16 foreigners, according to Petinglay.
The Australian government banned travel to particular parts of the Philippines, strongly advising tourists to reconsider travel to those areas, but there is not much else they can do to stop the growing number of victims falling prey to this group. – NZHerald –