ZAMBOANGA CITY: Suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels gunned down two army intelligence soldiers in a broad daylight attack on Tuesday in Patikul town, Sulu.
Police said the soldiers who were only identified by their rank and surname – Corporals Lamustre and Apiado – died instantly in the ambush in the village of Igasan.
The slain soldiers were intelligence operatives of the 10th Infantry Battalion (IB) who were sent to the village of Taglibi, also in Patikul town, to gather information about the Abu Sayyaf.
They were traveling on a motorcycle in civilian clothes when rebels under Abu Sayyaf commander Morasil Mudjahirin attacked them, the police added.
The Abu Sayyaf, whose leaders pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has threatened to kill their two Canadian hostages – John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50 – and a Norwegian man Kjartan Sekkingstad who were kidnapped along with a Filipina – Maritess Flor – in September last year on Samal island in Davao del Norte province.
The group has demanded P21 million for each of the three hostages and said it would execute the hostages if ransom is not paid by April 8. The captives have appealed – in a new video clip uploaded on Facebook – to their governments to save their lives.
Security officials have kept a tight lid on the progress of military operations against the Abu Sayyaf. The Western Mindanao Command under General Mayoralgo de la Cruz did not give any statement about the latest threat by the Abu Sayyaf to kill the hostages.
Ridsdel, a consultant for international miner TVI, has appealed to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Pierre James Trudeau to save him and the other hostages. Ridsdel and his companions were shirtless and in handcuffs, and appeared frail and bearded in the video and guarded by masked gunmen, one of whom said they “will do something terrible against these captives.”
Hall and Sekkingstand, 56, also made a similar appeal and told their governments to get them all out fast. The woman did not speak.
Military forces are still struggling to search for the hostages and security has been tightened around Samal Island.