April 14, 2009

Philippines: Christian hostage beheaded by militants

Manila, 13 April (AKI) - Suspected Muslim militants have beheaded one of two hostages captured last week in a raid on a Christian community in the southern Philippines, the military said on Monday.Marines spokesman Capt. Neil Estrella said the body of Cosme Aballes was recovered Sunday by soldiers who are pursuing members of the militant separatist Abu Sayyaf group."He was nearly beheaded. His head and his body is joined merely by the skin," Estrella said.Aballes and Ernan Chavez were reportedly taken by at least 40 Abu Sayyaf and rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front when the militants raided the village of Upper Arco in Basilan Province on Friday. Chavez is still being held captive.

Meanwhile the chief of the Red Cross in the Philippines, Richard J. Gordon, has renewed his appeal for the release of two foreign aid workers being held by Muslim militants in the south of the country.Gordon, a senator and chairman of the local Red Cross, asked for prayers of support for his colleagues in an Easter message.Italian Eugenio Vagni and his Swiss colleague Andreas Notter were kidnapped on the southern Philippine island of Jolo in mid-January by militants linked to the Muslim militant group Abu Sayyaf. They were seized with Red Cross co-worker Mary Jean Lacaba who has since been released."Let us also offer our earnest prayers and sacrifices for our two colleagues – Andreas Notter and Eugenio Vagni – so that they may draw strength from us as we draw ours from them not only for being a living testimony of service to humanity but also as an inspiration of steadfastness in sowing the seeds of hope," Gordon said.Gordon on Thursday spoke to Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad, who said 62-year-old Vagni, was having difficulty walking.

The kidnappers have threatened to behead one of the hostages unless security forces surrounding their jungle stronghold withdraw.Gordon was not available for comment on Monday but last week he said the army had still not withdrawn from the Jolo town of Parang and three villages - Pasil, Panabuan and Caday. Pope Benedict XVI and the Italian and Swiss governments have appealed to Abu Sayyaf to spare the hostages' lives and called for their release.The abduction of the Red Cross workers is the most high-profile kidnapping of foreign nationals since 2001, when two dozen tourists were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants from an island resort in the western Philippines.