A third Vietnamese hostage held by Islamic militants in the Philippines has been killed.
Filipino General Cirilito Sobejana confirmed Thursday that troops found the body of Viet Van Tran after a weekend battle between troops and Abu Sayyaf militants. The fighting also left four militants and a soldier dead.
The body was found in the southern island province of Sulu. News reports quoted Sobejana as saying the victim had suffered “multiple gunshot wounds.” He said it was not known whether the hostage was killed during fighting or was shot by his captors.
The victim was the latest Vietnamese hostage to be killed while in custody of the Abu Sayyaf group. Last week, two Vietnamese hostages were found beheaded on the southern island of Basilan. Another Vietnamese hostage was shot by the captors earlier this year.
All victims were working as crew members aboard two cargo ships when they were captured by Abu Sayyaf militants. One incident happened last February, the other in November 2016.
One of the Vietnamese hostages escaped captivity in Basilan last month. But seven others are still being held by the militant group.
Abu Sayyaf is currently holding a total of 21 hostages, including 15 foreigners, according to Philippine military officials.
Abu Sayyaf was formed in the 1990s with financial assistance from al Qaeda. It split into a collection of factions in the mid-2000s and is now believed to include about 400 members. Several factions have declared allegiance to the Islamic State in recent years.
The Counter Extremism Project says Abu Sayyaf operates from the Sulu Sea islands in the mostly Muslim southern Philippines. It seeks to set up an independent Islamic state in the region.
Philippine troops have been battling Muslim rebels with ties to Abu Sayyaf in the country’s south for the past two months.
The troops are searching for Isnilon Totoni Hapilon, a top leader of the Abu Sayyaf group for the past 20 years. Hapilon is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list. The search for him has been centered in the town of Marawi, on the island of Mindanao.
More than 400 people have been killed in the fighting in Marawi since late May. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced and about 20 percent of the town has been destroyed.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn adapted this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from Radio Free Asia’s Vietnamese Service, the Associated Press and Reuters. Hai Do was the editor.
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Words in This Story
custody – n. state of being held in captivity or jail
faction – n. group within a larger group that has different views and opinions than the rest