Muslim Guerrillas Behead 5 After Raid in Philippines

BALUGO, Philippines, AUG. 3, 2001 ( A gang of Muslim extremist guerrillas seized a group of villagers near a mainly Catholic town in the southern Philippines and beheaded five of them, a police chief told the Associated Press.

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Abu Sayyaf militants swooped down Thursday night on the village of Balugo on the island of Basilan and took 16 people hostage, including several children, Basilan provincial Police Chief Akmadul Pangambayan said. Five decapitated bodies were found after the attack, he said.

Authorities were investigating reports that one of the abducted people was a relative of Inocente Ramos, mayor of the nearby town of Lamitan, who is fiercely opposed to the Abu Sayyaf, Pangambayan said.

The Abu Sayyaf, a group thought to number a total 1,100 fighters with their stronghold on Basilan island, had already been holding about 20 other hostages, including at least two Americans seized in May.

Pangambayan said that three days ago a man sent a message that Abu Sayyaf was about to kidnap and behead Christians in retaliation for the army´s campaign to eliminate the fundamentalist Muslim group.

The Abu Sayyaf says it is seeking an independent Muslim state to be carved out of the southern part of this predominantly Catholic nation. The Philippine government calls Abu Sayyaf nothing more than bandits who are out to profit from kidnapping.

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