MANILA (AFP) - Islamist militants in the Philippines have beheaded seven local loggers they kidnapped last week in their stronghold in the strife-torn south, police said on Monday (July 31).
The bodies of the loggers were found on Sunday in a mountainous village on the island of Basilan, local police chief John Cundo told AFP, blaming the killings on a faction of the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group based there.
The group of senior Abu Sayyaf leader Furuji Indama abducted and killed the loggers apparently over a local business row rather than for its typical ransom activities, Cundo said.
"This was an act of revenge by Indama who may have blamed the destruction of his rubber plantation on these loggers. The kidnappers did not demand ransom but immediately beheaded the loggers," Cundo said.
The Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.
One faction based on Basilan has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group, with members among militants who have been occupying parts of Marawi, the largely Catholic nation's most important Islamic city, since May.
The militants have withstood a US-backed military offensive in Marawi that has claimed 650 lives and displaced nearly 400,000 people.
President Rodrigo Duterte has imposed martial law across the southern third of the Philippines, including Basilan, to quell the militant threat.
The Abu Sayyaf, blamed for the worst terror attacks in the nation's history, is known to behead its hostages unless ransom payments are made.
The militants beheaded two Canadian hostages last year and a German captive in February after ransom demands were not met.
Abu Sayyaf militants are holding more than 20 hostages, including several foreigners, in Basilan and another of their bases on the southern island of Sulu, according to the military.