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Archive for Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Report: Kansas captives still alive

Muslim guerrillas free two Filipino hostages

July 4, 2001

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— Two Filipinos, freed Tuesday by Muslim guerrillas, said a U.S. couple held hostage with them for more than five weeks were OK but a third American disappeared at the time the rebels claimed they beheaded him.

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan said Luis Bautista III and Lalaine Chua told military officials they were with Martin and Gracia Burnham of Wichita, Kan., as recently as three days ago.

"They ... said the Americans are all right," Adan told reporters.

Both hostages, however, corroborated statements by captives freed earlier that a third American, Guillermo Sobero of Corona, Calif., was last seen the night of June 11, when Abu Sayyaf rebels claimed to have beheaded him.

"Mr. Sobero was hogtied at the back and he has not been seen since then," Adan quoted Chua and Bautista as saying.

Although the decapitated remains of four Filipino hostages have been found, Sobero's body has not. Another Muslim separatist group said Monday it was checking reports that its rebels saw all three Americans alive about 10 days earlier.

The three Americans were among 20 people taken at gunpoint by the Abu Sayyaf from an island resort in the western province of Palawan and brought by speedboats to Basilan, a mountainous southern province where a massive military assault and rescue attempt is under way.

The Abu Sayyaf threatened Tuesday to stage more assaults on foreigners.

Bautista went on radio with a letter from the group that claimed it will continue to "attack and seize U.S. and European citizens and their properties" until the Philippines withdraws from Muslim-dominated islands in the southern part of the sprawling archipelago.

The rebels also demanded total withdrawal of all U.S. and European groups and their business interests from the Middle East and an end to support for Israel.

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