MANILA, Philippines – Philippine prosecutors say a new investigation has cleared 18 suspected Abu Sayyaf militants of involvement in the 2002 kidnappings of six people, including two men who were beheaded, in the country's south.
A report of the investigation by seven prosecutors, released Thursday, says the 18 men were either wrongfully identified by police and military as Abu Sayyaf militants or were members of the al-Qaida-linked group but played no role in the kidnappings. Membership in the Abu Sayyaf and other suspected terror groups is not outlawed in the country.
Prosecutor Peter Ong says two of the suspects have been detained for more than two years while most others were detained last year.
A judge must now approve the release of the suspects.
Four of the kidnap victims escaped from their captors.