Philippines investigating reports militants beheaded Malaysian captive

MANILA - The Philippine military said it was investigating credible intelligence reports that a small al Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group had beheaded a Malaysian businessman held captive since May on the southern island of Jolo.

Abu Sayyaf militants were believed to have killed their captive in the town of Indanan on Tuesday, said Brigadier-General Alan Arrojado, army commander on Jolo island.

While the reported beheading is far to the south of the capital Manila, where world leaders including US President Barack Obama are attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, it is a reminder of the security challenges small Islamist groups still pose to the Philippines.

"There were credible reports that Abu Sayyaf has carried out the execution," Arrojado told reporters in Manila, saying security forces had been sent to locate the body. The intelligence reports had come from the area, Arrojado said, without giving details.

Jolo island is a stronghold of Abu Sayyaf, a group known for bomb attacks, kidnappings and beheadings. It frequently seeks ransom in return for freeing hostages.

Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said on Twitter he was waiting for confirmation on the beheading from his Philippine counterparts.

Malaysian authorities have previously identified the captive as Bernard Then Ted Fen.

He and a Malaysian woman were abducted in May from a Chinese seafood restaurant in a coastal town in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah, on Borneo island, and taken to Jolo.

Last week, Abu Sayyaf freed the woman after reports a ransom was paid for her release.

Arrojado said an earlier intelligence report indicated Abu Sayyaf planned to behead the man if a ransom was not paid.

In September, Abu Sayyaf kidnapped two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipino from an upscale beach resort in the southern Philippines.

They have demanded 1 billion pesos (S$30.2 million) for each of the captives.