MANILA, Philippines — A Muslim extremist group with links to Osama bin Laden kidnapped four coconut farmers on a southern island Saturday and beheaded two of them when they tried to escape, police said.
Bensali Jabarani, police chief of the island province of Basilan, said the Abu Sayyaf rebels invaded the outskirts of the village of Atong Atong before noon Saturday and took the four while they were gathering coconuts from a local plantation.
He said the guerrillas beheaded coconut farmers Isabelo Adlawan and Fernando Romeo after they tried to flee and that the two others escaped and reached a local police station.
The Abu Sayyaf, thought to number 1,000 fighters, has kidnapped dozens of foreigners and Filipinos in recent years and raised millions of dollars in ransom. They still hold two Americans and at least 14 Filipinos, and are accused of the grisly murder of a Californian tourist.
The rebel group says they have ties to bin Laden and that several members were trained in Afghanistan. U.S. and Filipino authorities have said the same. The Abu Sayyaf claim to be fighting to create an independent Islamic state in the southern region of Mindanao, but the government dismisses them as bandits.
On Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Manila confirmed that bones found last week on Basilan were those of Guillermo Sobero of Corona, Calif.
The Abu Sayyaf abducted Sobero along with two other Americans and 17 Filipinos on May 27 from a southwestern beach resort. Missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham of Wichita, Kan., are still being held captive.
A coconut farmer who escaped from captivity last week, Faizal Benasing, said the two American missionaries have been treated with respect, but have lost weight from lack of food.
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