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Philippine Rebels Kidnap 20 New Hostages - 2001-08-03

Suspected Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremists have kidnapped about 20 new hostages and beheaded four in the southern Philippines. Philippine police say the latest kidnapping incident happened Thursday night in a mostly Christian village on the southern island of Basilan.

A band of hooded men, believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf Muslim rebel group, kidnapped about 20 villagers, including four children. Four people were later found beheaded.

Basilan police Chief Akmadul Pangambayan told Radio Mindanao Network that most of those abducted were likely farmers living in the area.

The Abu Sayyaf rebels, who say they are fighting for an independent Muslim state in the Christian-dominated Philippines, are already holding American and Filipino hostages abducted from a beach resort in May.

Last year, the same group was also responsible for a raid on a Malaysian resort. Those hostages were later freed only after millions-of-dollars in ransom were reportedly paid.

The government of President Gloria Arroyo refuses to negotiate, calling the Abu Sayyaf a criminal gang.