MANILA, Dec 6 (Reuters) - A Manila court sentenced 14 members of Muslim militant group Abu Sayyaf to life in prison on Thursday for the kidnapping of 20 people from a beach resort in 2001 and the decapitation of three of them, including an American.
It was the longest hostage saga in the Philippines involving foreigners.
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Here are some key facts about the kidnapping and the hostages, some of whom spent more than a year in captivity.
- Abu Sayyaf members kidnap 20 people, including three American tourists, from cottages built on water at the Dos Palmas beach resort in the western Philippines on May 27, 2001. The rest are Filipinos.
Men armed with M16 rifles wake the unsuspecting guests and three hotel workers in the middle of the night and herd them onto a speedboat. The resort’s cook was kidnapped as an afterthought because the captors wanted someone to prepare food for them. He was later one of those beheaded.
- The following day, the Abu Sayyaf claim responsibility for the kidnapping and said the hostages had been taken some 480 km (300 miles) south to the islands of Jolo and Basilan.
- One of the hostages, a security guard from Dos Palmas, escapes around a week after the kidnapping.
- Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi offers help in negotiating with the Abu Sayyaf on June 10, 2001.
- The Abu Sayyaf announces on June 12, 2001, the beheading of American Guillermo Sobero "as a gift to the country on (its) Independence Day".
- Several Filipino hostages are freed and four escape later.
- U.S. missionary Martin Burnham and a Filipina nurse, Deborah Yap, are killed during a military rescue operation in Basilan on June 7, 2002. Burnham’s wife, Gracia, is shot in the leg but survives and is freed.
- Abu Sabaya, a spokesman of the Abu Sayyaf, is killed by troops in a clash a week after the rescue operation.
- Burnham, who along with her husband had spent 17 years working in the Philippines as a missionary, returns in July 2004 to testify at her captors trial.
- Nearly 40 million pesos ($954,000) were paid to the Abu Sayyaf in ransom, including 15 million pesos raised by the Burnhams’ church, court records show subsequently.
Sources: Reuters, www.graciaburnham.org.
(Reporting by Carmel Crimmins; editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Sanjeev Miglani