By BosNewsLife Asia Service with BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
MANILA, PHILIPPINES (BosNewsLife)– An elderly Christian farmer who was abducted in the Philippines nearly a month ago has been beheaded by a group with links to the Al-Qaeda terror group, the latest in a series of attacks against Christians, rights investigators confirmed Tuesday, May 19.
International Christian Concern, a major advocacy group, told BosNewsLife that 61-year-old Doroteo Gonzales was identified by his son after villagers discovered his severed head Sunday, May 17.
“Police believe militants had transferred the victim to the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group that is currently holding at least five other hostages,” ICC said. The circumstances of the other captives were not immediately clear Tuesday, May 19.
Gonzales’ family had reportedly been warned that Gonzales would be killed if they did not pay the ransom of 25 million pesos ($525,000) by Saturday, May 16.
Gunmen captured Gonzales from his home in Zamboanga city on April 25 and delivered him into the hands of Abu Sayyaf rebels on nearby Basilan Island, ICC said. “The extremist group, infamous for its brutality against Christians and foreigners, has ramped up its efforts to raise money for its activities by embarking on a kidnapping spree throughout the southern part of the country.”
Christians are often favored targets for these kidnappings, according to human rights groups. Just last month, militants reportedly beheaded another Christian farmer, Cosme Aballes, whom they had taken captive after raiding a Christian community in the same province.
The Philippine government has said radical Muslims have been trying trying to evict Christians from its Basilan Island base.
Abu Sayyaf and other Muslim militants have been warring in the southern Philippines for almost 30 years to establish an independent Islamic state. In 2007. “Abu Sayyaf rebels ordered civilians to deliver the severed heads of seven kidnapped Christians to military outposts in Jolo, another southern Philippine island,” ICC recalled.
Three teachers, a lending-firm collector, and a peace activist are known hostages on Basilan Island. In Jolo, the extremist group is still holding Italian Red Cross Worker Eugenio Vagni, who was captured along with his two colleagues in January.
ICC’s Regional Manager for East Asia, Natalia Rain, expressed concern over the situation. “Imagine living in a state where you know you may be seized from your home at any moment and have your fate thrust into the hands of radical terrorists,” Rain said.
“The brazenness of men who would behead an elderly man for his impoverished family’s failure to pay an outrageous ransom should wake us up to the horrifying reality of this thirty-year conflict,”the official added.