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Friday, 12 October, 2001, 09:50 GMT 10:50 UK
US hostage confirmed dead
Fighters from the Abu Sayyaf rebel group
The US believes the Abu Sayyaf has Bin Laden links
US forensic experts have confirmed human remains found last week in the southern Philippines are those of an American, Guillermo Sobero, who was kidnapped by Muslim separatist guerrillas nearly four months ago.

The kidnappers, who belong to the Abu Sayyaf group, said in June they had beheaded Mr Sobero because the security forces would not halt a rescue operation.

Guillermo Sobero
Guillermo Sobero was kidnapped on 27 May while on holiday
A statement released by the forensic laboratory in Hawaii, did not give a cause of death.

The United States and the Philippines regard the Abu Sayyaf as terrorists with links to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda organisation.

Since the attacks on the US last month, the Americans have promised the Philippines more help in its efforts to eradicate the group.

Shallow grave

Mr Sobero, 40, was one of three Americans among dozens of people kidnapped since May by the Abu Sayyaf guerrilla group.

The Filipino authorities said in June they believed Mr Sobero had died from an infected wound to his foot.

But they were not able to confirm his death until his remains, found in a shallow grave on the Southern Philippine island of Basilan last week, were taken for examination at the US Army Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii.

The kidnappers have also beheaded 12 Filipinos.

Escape

In another development, three Filipino hostages being held by the same group on Basilan island escaped overnight.

Bertram Benasing, 21, who escaped with his 14-year-old brother Zardi and 20-year-old Michael Abellion, said they had walked overnight after being sent to fetch water and bananas.

He said they had seen American missionary couple, Gracia and Martin Burnham, the previous night and said they were in good condition.

The Burnhams are among a group of 14 still being held by the guerrillas.

The Abu Sayyaf says it's fighting for independence for the Muslim minority in the south of this mainly Christian country.

But its principle activity appears to be kidnapping for ransom.

See also:

10 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
US bolsters Manila's rebel crackdown
24 Sep 01 | Americas
Bush calls halt to terror funding
05 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Hostages rescued in the Philippines
11 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Negotiating with the Abu Sayyaf
01 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Who are the Abu Sayyaf?
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