Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A Philippine court sentenced 14 members of the Muslim militant group Abu Sayyaf to life this morning after they were found guilty of kidnapping a group of 20 tourists in 2001 and killing another 5 later on. An American Protestant missionary was among the victims.
The terrorists took both American and Filipino hostages from a resort on the island (western side of the country), and hid them in the jungle for over a year. Three of the hostages were beheaded while two others, one being the Protestant Martin Burnham, lost their lives as negotiations played out. of Palawan
After the hostages were freed, more than 80 people were arrested in relation to the kidnapping and 23 were put on trial. However, four died in prison and one-fifth were released. The trial, which began in 2003, has attracted nation-wide interest, especially because the groups remain a major threat.
Immediately after the kidnappings, Washington began sending troops and instructors to train Filipino soldiers in counterterrorism operations - something that continues today.
Abu Sayyaf (which means “Carrier of Swords”) is considered to be the Filipino link to al-Qaeda. Its members are responsible for some of the worst terrorist attacks in the country - including a ferry bombing in 2004 that killed more than 100 people. According to some members of the Filipino secret service, since the arrests were made the group has weakened.