2 Jehovah's Witnesses Beheaded in Philippines

4 Others Still Captive; Officials Blame Bandits

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JOLO, Philippines, AUG. 22, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The heads of two Jehovah’s Witnesses, kidnapped in a Muslim extremist group’s stronghold, were found dumped in a public market in the southern Philippines. Four other members of the sect remained captives, the Associated Press reported.

The military and local police had blamed the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group for the Tuesday abductions, saying the nephew of a local Abu Sayyaf leader was among the armed kidnappers. However, they backtracked today, blaming a group of bandits headed by the nephew.

Brigadier General Romeo Tolentino, army commander on the southern island of Jolo in Sulu province, said the heads of the two male hostages were found in bags with notes denouncing them as «infidels.» The bags were left at food stands about 100 yards apart at the main market in the town of Jolo.

The attached notes calling for a jihad, or Islamic holy war, included a passage from the Koran and were written in Arabic and the local Tausug dialect, Tolentino said. «They did this because they want to punish the nonbelievers of Allah,» he said.

Officials said the two dead were Lemuel Montulo, 21, and Leonel Mantic, whose age was not known. Mantic’s 23-year-old widow, Emily, was feared to be one of the surviving captives along with Cleofe Montulo, 46, Flora Montulo, 40, and Nori Bendijo, 41. One of the Montulo women was Lemuel Montulo’s sister; the other was a sister-in-law.

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