Al-Qaida-linked militants beheaded three Christian men in the Philippines, security officials reported Sunday.
According to reports, about 30 Abu Sayyaf gunmen ran into the men Saturday as they were hauling timber in a rain forest near Maluso town on Basilan island.
Relatives found the remains of the three loggers hours later, Basilan provincial police chief Antonio Mendoza told The Associated Press.
"When they are hurt by our offensives, they resort to these atrocities," he said, suggesting that the killings were in retaliation of ongoing military and police operations.
Presently, all of Basilan's 675-strong police force, 100 police commandos and hundreds of soldiers are reportedly involved in the hunt for the militants, whose nearly-decade-old group is believed by U.S. and Philippine security officials to have received funds and training from Osama bin Laden's network.
Saturday's killings were carried out as the Philippines celebrated its 112th Independence Day.