American Missionaries Turn One Year in Captivity

Monday, June 10, 2002

By Noel T. Tarrazona
Philippine correspondent for ASSIST News Service

ZAMBOANGA CITY, PHILIPPINES (ANS) -- The American missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham turns one year old today under the captive of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a terrorist group operating in the Southern Philippines and believed to have links to the Al Qa'ida network in Afghanistan.

The couple was abducted at Dos Palmas Beach Resort last May 27, 2001 and was later brought to the jungles of Basilan Province where they are believed to be in captive until now.

Provincial spokesman Cris Puno said that the most recent report he has gathered was that the couple has been very sick lately while Gracia is suffering from Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), Martin is inflicted with Malaria, a disease common in tropical countries like the Philippines.

Worse, the arrival of more than a thousand US troops in Zamboanga City and Basilan Province was not able to secure the safe release of the hostages for the past months despite sophisticated gadgets and weapons.

Washington is negotiating with the Philippine government for the possible extension of US troops in the Southern Philippines since they are expected to leave the country in July 15 as stated in the Visiting Force Agreement (VFA).

A series of joint anti- terrorism training continue between the RP-US soldiers but residents in Basilan continue to doubt that such training can capture the elusive abductors of the missionary couple.

Wichita-based relatives of the couple have been calling radio stations in Zamboanga City saying words of encouragements and expressing concerns to the couple.