Three men have been found shot dead in the southern Philippines nine days after they were abducted by Islamist militants demanding a ransom payment, local authorities said on Saturday.
Soldiers tracking the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers recovered the bodies at a remote village on Basilan island, officials said, adding the three local men appeared to have been killed Friday.
"The bodies were discovered at around 9:45 in the morning today and there is an ongoing operation against the kidnappers," Basilan military commander Brigadier-General Eugenio Clement told reporters.
He said the three were taken at gunpoint by Abu Sayyaf gunmen on May 27.
Al-Rasheed Sakalahul, the vice governor of Basilan province, said the gunmen had contacted one of the victims' families and demanded one million pesos (21,600 dollars) in ransom.
"The family was not able to raise the amount the abductors demanded," Sakalahul told reporters, adding that the gunmen may also have felt squeezed by the military's search.
Abu Sayyaf was set up with seed money from Al-Qaeda in the early 1990s and is suspected by the military of tactical ties with Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian Islamist group blamed for several attacks in Indonesia.