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Military now presumes Sayyaf killed Sobero,

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Military now presumes Sayyaf killed Sobero,

Posted: 10:03 PM (Manila Time) | June 18, 2001
By Carlito Pablo
Inquirer News Service
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AMERICAN hostage Guillermo Sobero is now presumed dead, except that his body has yet to be recovered from the jungles of Basilan. 

Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan, spokesperson of the Armed Forces, yesterday told reporters that Sobero died on the night of June 11, after his captors separated him from the rest of the hostages somewhere in Central Basilan, his hands tied behind his back. 

"We do not know if he was executed or died of infection," Adan said of Sobero, who was apparently afflicted with diabetes. 

Adan based his announcement partly on information provided by Filipino hostage Francis Ganzon, who supposedly saw Sobero being tied and led away. 

Ganzon, along with two other captives of the Abu Sayyaf, arrived in Manila Saturday. 

But while the military is presuming Sobero dead, it is not doing the same for Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani, who, according to Basilan Gov. Wahab Akbar, died of wounds incurred during a battle with government troops early this month. 

Adan said that until Janjalani’s body was produced, "we cannot be certain he is dead." 

"He carries a P5-million price on his head and it might benefit some person if his true whereabouts are not traced," Adan said. 

Janjalani’s father-in-law, Ustadz Hussin Manatad, yesterday said Janjalani called him at 4 p.m. Saturday to say that he was alive and that they should not believe rumors of his death. 

The AFP had previously claimed that Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Abu Sabaya was bluffing when he announced on June 12 that his group had beheaded the 40-year-old Sobero as an "Independence Day gift" to President Macapagal-Arroyo. 

Adan said the US Embassy in Manila had been informed of the matter. Asked if Sobero’s family in Corona, California, had likewise been informed, he said: "The embassy will take care of that." 

But the US Embassy said it had yet to "independently confirm" the death of the American. 

"We have no proof of Mr. Sobero’s state," embassy spokesperson Michael Anderson said. 

Anderson noted that "no remains have been identified as (Sobero’s)," and that there was "no independent source that witnessed his execution." 

"As we have said before, the murder of an innocent person is a cowardly act. We continue to hold the Abu Sayyaf responsible for the safety and welfare of all the people it is holding," Anderson said. 

In California, Sobero’s brother Alberto told the Associated Press that he had not heard from anyone about Adan’s statement. 

"We are going to have to figure out what to do next," Alberto said. "We still have to talk to the State Department and the (Federal Bureau of Investigation). That’s all I have to say now." 



Adan said civilian groups in Basilan had been asked to help find the body of Sobero, one of three Americans taken by the Abu Sayyaf on May 27 from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan.


Sobero was supposedly wounded in his right leg when the bandit group engaged government forces in a firefight in Lamitan, Basilan, on June 1. 

"It appears that Mr. Sobero was diabetic because despite the antibiotics administered to him by the nurses in Lamitan, his wound did not heal," Adan said. "He was also on self-medication from the time he left Palawan." 

Adan said Sobero had been injecting himself, presumably with insulin, during the long boat trip from the resort to Basilan, but that he ran out of medicine and started shaking. 

The military has examined Ganzon’s statements, and based on these, "we have very strong reasons to believe that Mr. Guillermo Sobero is dead," Adan said 

He added: "We have no proof as to the exact cause of death. The beheading is a statement of Sabaya." 

Adan said the other American hostages, missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham, were believed to be surviving fairly well under the circumstances. 

He cited Ganzon’s statement that "the Burnhams’ faith has kept them strong." 

He said Martin Burnham was reported to be nursing back wounds but otherwise had "no serious injuries." 

The hostages were said to be eating rice and occasionally got coconuts with brown sugar, small dried fish and a tin of sardines. 

Adan said troops were "closing in" on the bandits yesterday. "The vegetation is very dense and the terrain is muddy, and the bandits have their diversionary attacks to mislead their true location," he said. 

At his regular briefing yesterday, Adan said a 15-minute clash between the bandits and members of the Navy’s Special Warfare Group occurred at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Mara-Marang in the capital city of Isabela. 

There were no government casualties, he said. The soldiers recovered from the site of the clash an M-16 rifle, four ammunition magazines, a radio, two backpacks and a bag containing personal effects. 

'Very much alive'


According to Adan, Ganzon related that Janjalani was with the gunmen holding him and other hostages before he and teenager Kimberly Jao Uy were released last week. 

`(Ganzon) saw Janjalani very much alive, with no wounds or injuries,’’ Adan said. ``That is why we do not want to confirm statements that Janjalani is dead.’’ 

Basilan Rep. Gerry Salapuddin also quoted Manatad as telling him that Janjalani was alive. 

"Manatad told me that Khadaffy called at around 4 p.m. last Saturday informing them that he is alive. I don’t know if after 4 p.m. he was killed," Salapuddin told the INQUIRER in a phone interview. 

Earlier, Akbar said he had received reports that Janjalani was killed in a clash in Tuburan town after the bandits fled Lamitan on June 2. 

"Of course, we need to see the body first. We were planning to unearth the reported burial site. But because of the military operations in the area, we cancelled our plans," Akbar told the INQUIRER. 

With reports from Rocky Nazareno; Julie Alipala-Inot; AP

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