Abu Sayyaf Executes Vietnamese Boat Captain: Philippine Military

Pham Minh Tuan was kept captive in southern Philippines jungles for more than a year.

Abu Sayyaf Group members gather in the jungles of the southern Philippine island of Basilan in this undated file photo.

Abu Sayyaf kidnapers executed a Vietnamese hostage after holding him captive for more than a year in the southern Philippines, the military said Monday.

The body of Pham Minh Tuan, the captain of the M/V Royal 16 vessel who was taken hostage along with five crew members by Abu Sayyaf militants in November 2016, was recovered in a coastal village on Jolo island at the weekend, military officials said.

“Tuan’s remains were airlifted to Manila and turned over to the Vietnamese Embassy,” said Chief Superintendent Graciano Mijares, head of the regional police.

M/V Royal 16 was carrying cement from northeastern Vietnam to the Philippines when it was attacked off the island of Basilan in the south.

The boat had 19 crew members aboard, according to the Vietnamese embassy in the Philippines, but the attackers took six, including the captain, as hostages and let the rest go.

Tuan and his five crewmen apparently were taken to the jungles of Jolo island farther south, military officials said. One of the five escaped in June, while two were beheaded a month later.

Mijares said the gunmen initially thought the boat captain could be ransomed for a big amount, but they were mistaken. He did not elaborate.

Last month, troops rescued four Vietnamese hostages from the Abu Sayyaf but found a fifth dead. This group was taken from another ship gunmen boarded in February.

At least six foreigners are believed to be held captive by Abu Sayyaf, officials said. The bandits last year had beheaded two Canadians and a German national held separately, after ransom payments demanded by the captors were not met.

Following the recovery of Tuan’s body, the military said it launched pursuit operations that led to a clash in the seaside town of Panamao in Sulu, where three Abu Sayyaf suspects were killed.

Numbering in the low hundreds, the Abu Sayyaf (Bearers of the Sword) was founded in the 1990s by Afghan-trained militant Abdurajak Janjalani. It is the most violent of Muslim rebel factions in the southern Philippines, and was blamed for a ferry bombing in Manila Bay that killed more than 100 people in 2004.

Janjalani was eventually killed in a police operation in Basilan. He was succeeded by his younger brother, Khadaffy, under whose command gunmen launched a series of spectacular kidnapping raids that netted dozens of European, Asian and American hostages during the previous decade.

Khadaffy was killed, but Abu Sayyaf later split into several factions, including one led by Isnilon Hapilon, who pledged allegiance to the IS and led the siege of Marawi city in May.

Hapilon was among more than 1,000 people killed in five months of gun battles in Marawi, but the military said that his death did not automatically mean the end of the Abu Sayyaf.

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.