Vietnam to bring home bodies of sailors murdered by Philippine militants

By Khanh Lynh   July 8, 2017 | 08:35 am GMT+7

The two Vietnamese sailors were beheaded by Islamist militants after being held hostage since last November.

Vietnam is working with the Philippines to bring home the bodies of two Vietnamese sailors executed by Islamist militants Abu Sayyaf, according to a statement by the Foreign Ministry.

Hoang Trung Thong, Hoang Van Hai and four other Vietnamese crew members of cargo ship MV Royal 16 were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf Group in November last year. The militants had been keeping them as hostages, and beheaded Thong and Hai, allegedly on Tuesday.

Philippine troops first discovered the remains of two people believed to be the Vietnamese hostages on the island of Basilan early Wednesday, according to Vice Foreign Minister Vu Hong Nam.

Representatives from the Vietnamese Embassy in the Philippines on Thursday evening confirmed the two were Vietnamese sailors Thong and Hai.

“The Foreign Ministry strongly condemns the killing of two Vietnamese citizens by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the victims' families and relatives, and hope they could soon overcome this traumatic loss,” Nam said in a statement.

The Foreign Ministry will support the victims' families in preparing for their funerals, and continue to request the Philippine authorities to ensure the safety of Vietnamese citizens, according to Nam.

Hoang Vo, another kidnapped Vietnamese crew member on the MV Royal 16, was rescued in June and is undergoing rehabilitation in Vietnam. Three remain in captivity, AFP quoted the Philippine military spokesperson Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay as saying.

Abu Sayyaf, originally a loose network of militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, has splintered into factions, with some continuing to engage in banditry and kidnappings, according to AFP.

The Muslim rebel group has become notorious for kidnapping over the past 15 years and have earned millions of dollars in ransoms. They have acquired modern weapons, high-powered boats and communications equipment.

The group is still holding a total of 22 hostages, including 16 foreigners, said Petinglay.

The Abu Sayyaf is known to behead its hostages unless ransom payments are made.

German national Jurgen Kantner, 70, was beheaded in February after the kidnappers' demand for 30 million pesos ($600 000) was not met.

Last year, the group beheaded two Canadian hostages.