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Rescue Attempt Bolsters U.S., Philippine Resolve Against Terrorists

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2002 – Although not completely successful, today's attempt by Philippine commandos to rescue an American missionary couple and a Philippine woman held captive by terrorists has bolstered U.S.-Philippine determination to defeat the terrorists, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said here today.

Appearing on the Jim Lehrer News Hour television program, Wolfowitz said American forces deployed to the Philippines have been providing training and logistical support to Philippine government troops to fight the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group.

Abu Sayyaf had captured Martin and Gracia Burnham, both American missionaries, and Deborah Yap, a Philippine nurse, in the Philippines more than a year ago. Martin Burnham, Gracia Burnham's husband, and Yap were killed during the rescue attempt. Gracia Burnham was injured and is receiving medical treatment.

The rescue attempt has strengthened Philippine "resolve to go after the terrorists," Wolfowitz said, adding, "I believe it should strengthen our resolve to help them to do so."

Another American who had been captured along with the Burnhams had been beheaded last June by the same terrorists.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today offered condolences to the families of the hostages who died, and displayed determination to defeat the terrorists.

"Our soldiers tried their best ... we had hoped and prayed for their safe return ... the terrorists shall not be allowed to get away with this," she said, adding, "the fierce battle is still continuing in the jungles" against the terrorists.

"We shall not stop until the Abu Sayyaf is finished," she emphasized.

Earlier today in Brussels, Belgium, U.S. Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that Martin Burnham, and Deborah Yap had been killed in the rescue attempt. The general said he had no details on those deaths.

Myers also said Burnham's wife, Gracia, was injured in the rescue, but that her injuries were not life-threatening. Mrs. Burnham was evacuated for medical treatment by a U.S. military helicopter, Myers said. There was no U.S. involvement in the hostage rescue in the Philippines, he noted. American special operations forces have been in the Philippines to "assist and help train the Philippine armed forces to fight the Abu Sayyaf group," Myers had said in Brussels.

"That task ... is still in force," he added.

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