Officials: U.S. Missionary Kidnapper Killed

Southern military commander Maj. Gen. Ernesto Carolina told the AP one of the gunmen, believed to be Sabaya, was fired at from only three yards away.

Carolina said he had no doubt that Sabaya was dead.

Abu Sayyaf on the Run

Sabaya was the leader of a predawn raid on a resort on May 27, 2001, in which the Abu Sayyaf took 20 hostages, including the Burnhams and another American, Guillermo Sobero of Corona, Calif. The group later beheaded Sobero.

The massive search that followed led to the ongoing six-month deployment of 1,000 American troops to train local soldiers to combat Abu Sayaaf terrorists. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has approved a plan to let those U.S. special operations trainers go out into the jungle with the Philippine military on the hunt for the Muslim guerrillas.

The U.S. military provided planning, intelligence and communications for this latest operation, helping target the boat. Asked whether Americans were nearby, Sater told the AP: "Yes, but I can't say how near."

Pentagon officials say hundreds of Abu Sayyaf have been killed, detained or fled the country since the United States began the training operation in February. They are believed to be demoralized, low on supplies and running out of places to hide.

Sabaya's real name was Aldam Tilao. He once studied computer engineering, but after visiting Saudi Arabia for work, he returned home in the late 1980s and later disappeared.

ABCNEWS' Brian Hartman at the Pentagon contributed to this report.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: The fake baby a man was carrying as he and another woman tried to sneak into the mother and baby unit at Mercy Medical Center in Merced, Calif., hospital officials said.
Dignity Health Security/Mercy Medical Center Merced
dpa, Jens Wolf/AP Photo
PHOTO: U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston stopped a would be smuggler from bringing nearly 7 ounces of cocaine into the country in tamales, Aug. 22, 2014.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
PHOTO: Giant panda Bao Bao celebrates her first birthday at the Smithsonians National Zoo, Aug. 23, 2014.
David Galen, Smithsonians National Zoo