- The Washington Times - Friday, April 26, 2002

CEBU, Philippines The father of a kidnapped American missionary says Muslim terrorists have broken their promise to free his son and daughter-in-law after nearly a year's captivity in the southern Philippines.
"We respectfully ask the Abu Sayyaf group and [its leader] Khadaffi Janjalani to honor their agreement with us," Paul Burnham said in a message aired yesterday on Radio Mindanao Network.
Martin and Gracia Burnham were snatched from a Philippine diving resort last May along with another American, Guillermo Sobero, whom the al Qaeda-linked terrorists beheaded the following month.
In the message from his home in Wichita, Kan., the elder Mr. Burnham said the family had worked out a deal through emissaries last month and had expected the release of the couple and Philippine nurse Ediborah Yap within days.
He, however, made no mention of any ransom payment. The Washington Times reported earlier this month that U.S. authorities helped facilitate a $300,000 payment of private funds to the kidnap-for-ransom gang.
The radio station in Mindanao, the large southern island that is home to many of the 4 million Muslims in the Philippines, has regularly carried interviews with Abu Sayyaf guerrillas and has aired previous pleas from the Burnham family.
"I hope they abide by their word and fulfill our gentlemen's agreement," Mr. Burnham said, adding that he had contact through an intermediary with Mr. Janjalani and another rebel leader, Abu Sulaiman.
"On March 26, Abu Sulaiman advised us to tell Martin and Gracia's children that they would be released soon," Mr. Burnham said. "The children and the family have been anxiously waiting for them to abide by their word. But it now seems that they do not intend to keep their promises to us," he said. "Can any family believe the promises of the Abu Sayyaf in the future?"
The Abu Sayyaf, which in Arabic means "bearer of the sword," garnered nearly $20 million in ransom money after taking a group of mostly foreign hostages two years ago from a resort in neighboring Malaysia. Just as that crisis was cooling down, they nabbed the Burnhams, Mr. Sobero and nearly a dozen other hostages from a Philippine resort. Miss Yap was taken from a hospital in Basilan, an island province about 550 miles south of the capital, Manila, that serves as the group's lair.
The kidnappers have played a cat-and-mouse game with the Philippine military ever since, as they force the Burnhams to march through the island's nearly impenetrable jungle, chaining the couple to trees at night.
Hope for the release of the couple peaked in January, when about 660 U.S. soldiers, including Special Forces troops, arrived in Basilan for a joint training exercise. The Americans brought sophisticated tracking and spy equipment, but so far it hasn't helped free the hostages.

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