By Ali Macabalang
The decapitation by the Abu Sayyaf of two Vietnamese captives on Wednesday in Basilan could be in retaliation for the surrender in separate batches of 112 fellow militants in the island province, according to civilian and military officials.
The beheaded bodies of Hoang Trung Thong and Hoang Va Hai were found dumped along a farm-to-market road in Limbotulan area in Sumisip town in Basilan at 5:40 a.m. Wednesday.
The victims were both crew members of the Vietnamese cargo vessel M/V Royal 16 that Abu Sayyaf gunmen raided about four months ago while cruising at the sea borders of Sulu and Basilan.
A compatriot snatched along with them managed to escape from the Abu Sayyaf’s lair in Basilan’s Sampinit Complex more than two weeks ago.
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv S. Hataman has promptly condemned the brutal beheading incident, berating again the perpetrators as faithless people.
“We in the ARMM condemn the brutal decapitation of the two foreigners. It was done by people who don’t have true religion,” said Hataman, who has been working with Muslim religious scholars to combat extremism and terrorism.
The foreigners were beheaded after their employer and families failed to pay ransom, according to sources.
But Hataman said he was certain the execution was a vengeful act meant to create an impression that the Abu Sayyaf still exists in Basilan after at least 112 of their comrades surrendered in the past 14 months to local officials.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. of the Western Mindanao Command said they anticipated attacks to avenge the deaths of members killed in encounters with soldiers in Marawi City.
“It is a known fact that these people retaliate on nonmilitary targets whenever they suffer heavy losses in encounters with our units in the field,” Galvez said.
More than a hundred Abu Sayyaf gunmen led by Isnilon Hapilon laid siege, along with Maute terrorists, to most of 96 barangays in Marawi City on May 23, sparking hostilities. The siege is already in its sixth week.