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The BBC's John McLean in Manila
"There's still a glimmer of hope that Sobero's four children will see their father again"
 real 56k

Dr James Putzel, LSE Development Studies director
"Abu Sayyaf... are not just a group of bandits, they are a political group"
 real 28k

Nur Misuari, a former Muslim rebel leader
"Now I do not think they will release the hostages without money"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 13 June, 2001, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Philippines bodies identified
Army soldiers patrol Tairan village, Basilan island
President Arroyo has warned of a "long and bloody war"
Three headless torsos found on the southern Philippines island of Basilan have been identified as Filipinos.

Guillermo Sobero
Guillermo Sobero: Mystery over his whereabouts
One of the bodies was that of a Muslim cleric who had privately tried to negotiate with the kidnappers holding about 28 hostages, officials said.

The identities of the other two were not clear, but officials said they did not belong to any of the estimated 28 hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf.

On Tuesday, Abu Sabaya, an Abu Sayyaf spokesman, said that he killed the American - Guillermo Sobero, 40 - as a "present" to the country on its 103rd anniversary of independence.

We will meet fire with fire, and more

President Arroyo
It prompted widespread condemnation at home and abroad, but by Wednesday officials were expressing optimism that the American might not be dead.

"We believe that is still part of Sabaya's bluff," said military spokesman Col. Danilo Servando.

Military on stand-by

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has said a "long and bloody war" might be needed to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf group.

It may be heartless, but the government should write off the hostages

Malaya newspaper
"We will meet fire with fire, and more," she said at a nationally televised news conference. "No ransom. No deal. No ceasefire. No suspension of the military operation."

"Abu Sayyaf is a scourge to our race. They are a curse to their religion."

Several hundred reinforcements have joined thousands of troops searching for the Abu Sayyaf, and the president vowed that the military would wipe out the rebels from their base on the southern islands of Basilan and Sulu.

Sacrifice the hostages

Newspapers have backed her strong words, with several calling for the hostages to be sacrificed for the national good.

"The lives of hostages, tragic though it may be, may be worth the price if the result is the extermination of the Abu Sayyaf," said the Today newspaper.

American hostages Martin and Gracia Burnham
Two other Americans are being held by the rebels
The group holds two other Americans and about 25 Filipinos captured in three raids over the last two or three weeks.

It is fighting for a Muslim homeland in the mainly Roman Catholic Philippines.

The three headless bodies were found close to where rebels seized 15 people from a plantation on Monday.

The dead cleric had contacted the rebels in an unofficial attempt to negotiate the hostages' release, said officials.

Joel Maturan, mayor of the central Basilan town of Tipo Tipo, said the cleric and three other negotiators tried to approach the rebels, but the three fled when the rebels grew angry.

Mr Maturan told ABS-CBN television that Abu Sabaya ordered his men to tie up the cleric in the form of a cross.

They "immediately chopped off his head," he said. "Sabaya ordered the beheading of the priest on suspicion that he was spying for the military."

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See also:

12 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Torsos found on Philippine island
11 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Negotiating with the Abu Sayyaf
06 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine rebels: US hostage 'hurt'
03 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine rebels escape siege
02 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines hostage crisis deepens
01 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine troops battle kidnappers
29 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine rebels threaten hostages
30 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Who are the Abu Sayyaf?
20 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Gloria Arroyo: Contrast in styles
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