Family of U.S. Hostage Holding Out Hope

Yellow ribbons flutter on the trees near Guillermo Sobero's California home, but his youngest children do not know that their dad, whom they haven't seen for more than two weeks, could be dead.

There is a chance that Sobero has been beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf, a rebel group based in the southern Philippines, but no one knows for sure.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Abu Sayyaf told a local radio station they had beheaded Sobero, 40, but Philippine officials say there is no evidence Sobero had been killed.

Three bodies have been found on the southern Philippines island where the rebels are believed to be hiding, but none of them belong to Sobero, Philippines officials say.

But back in Cathedral City, Calif., only the eldest of Sobero's four children knows her father could be dead or be in serious danger. In an interview with ABCNEWS' Good Morning America, Aimee Sobero, 13, said her three younger brothers had been told their father was away at work. "They don't know anything yet," she said. "We haven't told them anything."

Sobero is one of three Americans kidnapped last month by the group, which is said by the U.S. government to be the smallest and most radical of Islamic separatist groups in the Philippines. They are also holding dozens of Filipino hostages.

Only Hope

Although the Abu Sayyaf has killed some of its Filipino captives in the past, the rebels have never killed a foreigner, despite many threats to do so.

One of the three bodies found on Basilan Island, a thickly forested island 560 miles south of the capital Manila, is believed to be that of a volunteer negotiator who tried to contact the group. Another is believed to be the body of a Muslim cleric. The third is unknown.

For Sobero's anxious family in California, news that the three bodies were not American was good news.

"I heard from the State Department last night, and they said they have not positively identified the bodies," Sobero's brother Alberto told Good Morning America, "We're still hanging onto that hope, that's all we have left now, just hope."

The Abu Sayyaf, which is fighting to carve out an independent Islamic state from the southern Philippines, is notorious for using the media as part of its negotiating tactics and has in the past released its foreign captives in exchange for multimillion-dollar ransoms.

‘No Ransom. No Deal’

But Philippine authorities have been resolute that there will be no negotiations for ransom, even if an American hostage has been killed, and have ordered an all-out war against the guerrillas.

Manila is prepared for more fighting, more bloodshed and the possibility that more hostages are likely to be killed as they attempt to crush what President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo calls an evil band of criminals and hostage-takers.

Promising a "long and bloody war" with the Abu Sayyaf, Arroyo said there would be no let-up in the government's attempts to wipe out the rebels from their base on the southern islands of Basilan and Sulu.

"We will meet fire with fire, and more," Arroyo said at a nationally televised news conference today. "No ransom. No deal. No cease-fire. No suspension of the military operation."

No Plans for U.S. Intervention

Although U.S. officials are in close contact with their counterparts in the Philippines, senior U.S. officials say they have no plans to intervene militarily.

In a plea on Good Morning America, Alberto Sobero called upon the Bush administration to rethink its current policy. "If, in fact, they have harmed my brother, maybe it's time the Bush administration change the way it's been handling this situation," he said.

A senior U.S. official told ABCNEWS that sources in the Philippines had seen a videotape of a beheading, but it was not immediately clear who the victim was.

Sobero was on a scuba diving vacation, his third such vacation in the Philippines.

Along with Sobero, Martin and Gracia Burnham, two missionaries from Wichita, Kan., and 17 others were taken from a posh resort on the Sulu Sea on May 27.

On Monday, the guerrillas stormed a coconut and coffee plantation in southern Basilan and took 15 more hostages, including two 12-year-old children. The rebels also burned down five houses and a chapel. After a series of escapes, executions and new seizures, the rebels now hold a total of 28 hostages. ABCNEWS' Mark Litke in Manila and Martha Raddatz in Washington contributed to this report.