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2 Abu Sayyaf men linked to priest killing in govt custody


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ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Government troops have arrested a father and his son suspected to be members of the Abu Sayyaf implicated in the killing of a Catholic priest in Tawi-Tawi province last year, officials said Thursday. The two – Ahmad Kuhutan and Kursid Kuhutan – are both implicated in the murder of Fr. Rey Roda on Jan. 15, 2008. The priest was killed after he fought off Abu Sayyaf gunmen who raided his convent inside the Notre Dame High School in South Ubian town during a failed kidnapping attempt. "The subjects were brought to Zamboanga City. Both are very cooperative and have already provided crucial information," said Lt. Steffani Cacho, a regional military spokesperson. The two were arrested last week in Tawi-Tawi but their arrest was made known only on Thursday. The slain priest belonged to the congregation of Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Roda's hands were tied when policemen recovered his bullet-riddled body slumped outside his convent. Roda was praying inside his convent when 10 gunmen seized the priest and dragged him outside where he was also mauled. It was not the first time that the Abu Sayyaf killed a Catholic priest. In 2002, militants also kidnapped, tortured and killed a Claretian priest - Roel Gallardo - in Basilan province, several nautical miles south of Zamboanga City. In 1997, the Abu Sayyaf also assassinated a Catholic bishop - Benjamin de Jesus - in Jolo town in Sulu province. He was shot several times outside his church in a broad daylight attack. Three years later, the Abu Sayyaf also ambushed a Catholic missionary, Benjamin Inocencio, in Jolo town while buying gifts for poor Muslims. The Abu Sayyaf also randomly attacked and bombed Catholic churches in Tawi-Tawi, Sulu and in Mindanao the past decade. The Abu Sayyaf, which means "Bearer of the Sword," was originally fighting for a separate Islamic state similar to Afghanistan, but resorted to banditry and kidnappings for ransom after its Libyan firebrand founder, Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, was killed in 1998 in a firefight with policemen in Basilan province. His younger brother, Khadaffy Janjalani eventually took over the Abu Sayyaf and was also killed in a clash with Special Forces soldiers in Sulu in December 2006. Although the group is now fragmented, authorities still considered the Abu Sayyaf as a dangerous organization. It was tagged as behind the series of deadly attacks in Mindanao and linked to the spate of kidnappings in the troubled region. The group is currently holding three members of the International Committee of the Red Cross – Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba – who were abducted January 15 in Sulu province where they inspected a water and sanitation project at a prison in Patikul town. - GMANews.TV
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