The Philippine government on Monday promised to hunt down al-Qaida-linked militants suspected of beheading a schoolteacher whose family failed to raise a ransom demanded by his kidnappers.
Workers at a gas station on southern Jolo Island found the severed head of Gabriel Canizares, 36, left in a bag three weeks after suspected Abu Sayyaf militants stopped a passenger minibus and dragged him away in front of his colleagues, said regional military commander Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino.
The militants, notorious for bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings, were reportedly demanding a ransom of 2 million pesos ($42,000) for his release.
Dolorfino said the demand was later lowered by half but that Canizares' family was able to raise only 150,000 pesos ($3,100). A school principal usually makes at least 23,000 pesos ($490) a month in the impoverished country.
"The demand could not be met," Dolorfino told The Associated Press.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Monday ordered the military and police to put an end to the Abu Sayyaf's "heinous and inhumane atrocities," her spokeswoman Lorelei Fajardo said.
"We shall make them pay for the enormity of this savagery," Fajardo said.
Dolorfino said troops were preparing an operation against the militants.
The Abu Sayyaf, which is suspected of receiving funds from al-Qaida, is believed to have about 400 fighters on Jolo and nearby Basilan Island. The group has been sheltering militants from the larger Southeast Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, the military says.
Despite years of U.S. military training and assistance, Filipino troops have struggled to contain the militants, who have recently intensified attacks on Jolo, blowing up bridges, firing mortar shells and setting off roadside bombs.
A Sept. 29 land mine explosion under a military convoy carrying American troops killed two U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers _ the first U.S. military deaths in the southern Philippines in seven years.
About 600 U.S. troops are currently stationed in the south but are barred by Philippine law from engaging in direct combat.
Education Secretary Jesli Lapus expressed shock at the teacher's killing, saying six other teachers who had been kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf earlier this year had all been released despite threats to behead them.
He said his department was at a loss how to ensure security for public schoolteachers in high-risk areas and feared that the kidnappings would discourage others from teaching underprivileged youths in Muslim areas.
Associated Press writer Teresa Cerojano contributed to this report.