Troops scour Sulu jungles to retrieve remains of beheaded ship captain

ZAMBOANGA CITY- Government troops are working round-the-clock to find the remains of the Filipino ship captain beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf bandits five days ago in the island province of Sulu, an official said Monday.

There's an ongoing relentless search operation [to retrieve the body of the slain kidnapped victim], Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana Jr., commander of Joint Task Force Sulu (JTFS), told the Philippines News Agency.

On Sunday, Sobejana confirmed the killing of F/B Ramona skipper Noel Besconde, who was abducted along with three of his crewmembers in December 2016 in the Celebes Sea.

Sobejana said the victim was executed on Maundy Thursday by the group of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sadjawaan in the village of Tugas in the town of Patikul.

Besconde was reportedly sick, prompting the bandits to behead him because his condition delays the movement of the group while evading advancing government forces.

On Monday, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo AAo also ordered the troops to locate the remains of Besconde.

I desire that his body be brought to his mourning family and be accorded a decent burial, he said in a statement.

Sobejana said they intensified their operation against the Abu Sayyaf bandits to free the 27 remaining hostages in Sulu.

Our operation for the rescue of the remaining KVs (kidnapped victims) is continuous, he said.

Besconde was the second hostage that the Abu Sayyaf bandits executed this year. The first was a German national who was executed in February after his family allegedly failed to heed the ransom demand of the bandits. Last year, two Canadian nationals were also beheaded apparently for the same reason.

At present, there are about 14 battalions of soldiers deployed in Sulu following President Rodrigo Duterte's order to crush the Abu Sayyaf in six months, starting January.

Source: Philippines News Agency