Report: Kidnappers Threaten to Behead two Hostages in Philippines
Abu Sayyaf gunmen holding 29 hostages, including a dozen foreigners, in the southern Philippines have threatened to behead two of their captives, a local newspaper reported Saturday.
It said the beheadings would take place unless suspected members of the Muslim extremist group arrested with alleged ransom money on Thursday are freed.
However, an aide of chief negotiator Roberto Aventajado, said he was not informed of the alleged threat when Abu Sayyaf leader Ghalib Andang called Aventajado on a satellite telephone on Friday.
Aventajado's aide said Andang never raised the issue of the arrest of the two suspected Abu Sayyaf members.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer, quoting a source, said Andang, also known as Commander Robot, made the threat at a meeting of the gunmen in their mountain lair in Jolo island.
Police arrested the pair while they were trying to change 240,000 dollars into pesos in a bank in southern Zamboanga city.
The Inquirer quoted Chief Inspector Bayani Gucela, spokesman of the unit that arrested the two, as saying that they admitted they had been instructed by Andang to convert the currency to pesos.
Police sources said they believed the cash was part of ransom money delivered to the Abu Sayyaf for hostages they released earlier.
The Inquirer said the Abu Sayyaf gunmen were threatening to kill either two of their European hostages, or two members of a group of 12 Filipino evangelists captured when they went to the Abu Sayyaf hideout to pray over the captives in July.
The newspaper reported that its source, who was present at an Abu Sayyaf meeting on Friday, said Commander Robot "in an outburst, raised the idea of beheading two of their captives."
Andang then called negotiator Aventajado by satellite phone to tell him of "their plans if the money and the couriers are not released as soon as possible," the source was quoted saying.
Andang also told Aventajado that the Abu Sayyaf would not release any of its hostages unless their couriers were freed, the source said.
The Manila Standard newspaper meanwhile, quoted an alleged "go-between" as saying that Andang told him they had originally planned to release four female European hostages on Saturday but decided not to release them until his two men were freed.
However, the government negotiating panel earlier said there were no releases scheduled for Saturday.
Philippine National Police chief Panfilo Lacson told the Inquirer that the suspects and the money "will not be released."
He was reacting to reports that the Presidential Anti-Organised Crime Task Force, which caught the suspected Abu Sayyaf members with the ransom money, was allegedly under pressure from an unnamed senior government official to release the suspects and the money.
Aventajado has denied he was pressuring the police and insisted that the arrests were a "police matter." - MANILA (AFP)
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