KOTA KINABALU: The threat of execution hangs over the four abducted Malaysian sailors after Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippines set an â€œearlyâ€ May deadline for talks to begin for their release.
Anti-kidnapping activist Prof Octavio Dinampo said killing captives appeared to be easier for the gunmen now following the beheading of Malaysian Bernard Then in Nov 17 last year and Canadian John Ridsdel on April 25 in Jolo island.
â€œThey have no qualms about executing their hostages. They donâ€™t have any conscience and are willing to carry out their brutal acts,â€ he told The Star on Wednesday.
He added that the the beheadings were not only carried out to pressure the families and governments of the remaining captives to negotiate for their release but were also to get rid of those who were sick and ailing.
Octavio said Philippines military operations had forced the militants and their captives to be on the move constantly in the mountainous interior of Jolo island. Hostages who were slow and weak were executed as a result.
The four sailors â€“ Sarawakians Wong Teck Kang, 31, Wong Hung Sing, 34, Wong Teck Chii, 29, and Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21 â€“ were abducted by Abu Sayyaf gunmen in the waters off Ligitan Island in Sabah on April 1.
They were part of a nine-member crew aboard a tugboat which was returning from the Philippines to Malaysia.
The gunmen, in telephone calls to the victimsâ€™ families, reportedly set an early May deadline for them to begin negotiations for the hostagesâ€™ release.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said on May 4 that intelligence reports indicated that the four Malaysian captives had been treated well by the gunmen and were safe and healthy.