Philippine militants behead 'police spy'

ISIS-linked group posts killing online as ransom deadline for victims snatched from resort lapses

Militants in the Philippines linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have beheaded a 43-year-old man they claim was a police spy.

This comes as the deadline set by the Abu Sayyaf for the governments of two Canadians and one Norwegian abducted from a resort in Mindanao to pay one billion pesos (S$29.2 million) in ransom lapsed yesterday without word of the hostages' fate.

A graphic video of the murder was posted on the Facebook page People Who Love Mujahideen.

It showed militants with a large knife slitting the throat of a man identified as Mr Robert Pepito from Bula village in General Santos city on the southern island of Mindanao.

The killers claimed to be members of Ansar al Khilafah Philippines. A statement accompanying the video said "this jasus (spy) had been roaming and sniffing" around Ansar al Khilafah's territories in Saranggani province, 1,000km south of the capital Manila.

It said they hunted the man for a week, and beheaded him soon after he purportedly confessed to spying for a special police unit.

Ansar al Khilafah figured in a three-minute video posted in December that showed a group of men, clad mostly in black, coaxing Muslims to travel to Syria and fight for ISIS. The group is believed to be sheltering at least three South-east Asian extremists who have returned after fighting with ISIS in Syria.

Meanwhile, General Hernando Irriberi, the Philippine military chief, said operations to rescue Mr Robert Hall, 50, and Mr John Ridsdel, 68, both of Canada, Mr Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56, of Norway, and Ms Maritess Flor, 40, of the Philippines, would continue even as a deadline set by the Abu Sayyaf for ransom payment lapsed yesterday.

In a video released last month, a group of men believed to be part of the Abu Sayyaf's "Tanum sub-group" made the hostages beg for their lives as a hooded figure addressed the Canadian and Norwegian governments.

"If you think your policy is far better for you than the lives of these captives, certainly we will do something terrible against these captives," the figure warned.

The four hostages were kidnapped on Sept 21 last year from the high-end Holiday Oceanview Samal resort on Samal Island, in Davao province.

Said Gen Iriberri: "We are looking at it seriously, and we continue to conduct our FMO (focused military operation) to address the situation and hopefully resolve the matter."

He reiterated that the government's policy on ransom "is very clear. We have a no-ransom policy. We are strictly abiding by it".

Asked about the deadline, the military's spokesman, Colonel Noel Detoyato, told reporters: "The deadline that they set is their deadline. It is not our deadline."

Told about the threat to the hostages' lives, Col Detoyato replied: "Whatever will happen to the hostages, it is their (the abductors') responsibility, and we will hold them responsible, the kidnappers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2016, with the headline 'Philippine militants behead 'police spy''. Print Edition | Subscribe