Zamboanga (AsiaNews) – A Muslim missionary who tipped off authorities about the activities and whereabouts of al-Qaeda-linked militants on a southern Philippine island has been killed and his body mutilated the remains, chopped into pieces and put inside a sack, were found on July 18 in Balagtasan village in Lamitan town on Basilan Island. Marine Col. Ramiro Alivio, the island's military chief, said the slain missionary, who was not identified, had provided information to the military about Abu Sayyaf militants and other ''lawless elements'' on Basilan.
“We condemn the killing and authorities are now hunting the culprits behind the gruesome murder,'' Alivio said. Several years ago, Basilan was a hotbed of Abu Sayyaf militants, but US-backed offensives by the Philippine military have crippled the group. The government has touted the success as a showcase of counterterrorism cooperation and related humanitarian development, but the rebels have yet to be quashed. July 12th 14 marines were killed and 10 of them beheaded in an ambush blamed on Muslim rebels, while there was a bloody July 10 attack on a marine convoy returning from a search for kidnapped Italian priest Fr Giancarlo Bossi. These attacks have threatened to re-ignite the conflict.
The military said it relieved two marine commanders on Basilan after the killing of 14 troops. Navy spokesman Cmdr. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said they will face an investigation into whether their were lapses in their leadership. Police said Wednesday they will file criminal charges within a week against local leaders of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front and members of the Abu Sayyaf for the attack, which the military said was a violation of a 2003 cease-fire with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), a rebel group. The MILF has acknowledged its forces clashed with the marines, but accused them of encroaching on rebel strongholds and disarming a guerrilla in violation of the truce. The MILF denied involvement in the beheadings.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro said troops will start ''punitive actions'' against the guerrillas involved in the attack if the MILF does not surrender them within a week.