Abu Sayyaf militant group in the Philippines reportedly beheaded seven local loggers as "an act of revenge", local police chief John Cundo said on Monday (31 July). The victims were kidnapped from the restive southern island of Basilan last week.

The decapitated bodies of the loggers were found on Sunday. They were not kidnapped for a ransom, which the Islamist group is notorious for, but over a local business row Cundo told AFP news agency.

"This was an act of revenge by Indama who may have blamed the destruction of his rubber plantation on these loggers. The kidnappers did not demand ransom but immediately beheaded the loggers," the police chief was quoted as saying.

The Philippines-based militant group, which has pledged allegiance to Isis, is known for abducting and beheading tourists or crew members on the southern Jolo islands, which is their stronghold in the Christian-majority country. They have also carried out small bombings and extortion.

The recent incident came amid a series of attacks by the militants that have alarmed Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's one-year-old government.

Earlier this month, the group beheaded two Vietnamese sailors it had held hostages for the past one year. The sailors were also abducted near island of Basilan in June 2016.

The sailors were among the six crew members of the Vietnamese cargo vessel MV Royal 16 who were abducted by the militants. One of the men was rescued by the Philippines army during a combat operation last month, while three others remain in captivity.

Nearly two dozen captives are reportedly still held by the militants on Jolo islands, despite the Philippine government deploying more than 10,000 troops in the region to eradicate the Islamic insurgency. The hostages include people from various parts of the world, including Germany, Japan, Indonesia, Denmark, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Abu Sayyaf
The Sulu archipelago is thought to be a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf gang - file photo Reuters

Earlier in February, Abu Sayyaf group beheaded a German captive, while two Canadian hostages were killed last year. Both the incidents took place after the Islamist militants reportedly did not receive the ransom they demanded.

The Abu Sayyaf group, whose name means "bearer of the sword" in Arabic, was founded in the 1990s after they separated from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which was one of the major movements advocating for self-determination and autonomy for Muslims in the Philippines. The militant group reportedly wanted to create a separate Islamic state, which led its split from MNLF.

According to reports, al-Qaida militants are believed to have provided Abu Sayyaf with financial assistance and training following its inception.