Kidnapping Victim Relieved at Death of Philippine Terror Leader

By Maddy Sauer

Jan 17, 2007 3:40pm

Gracia Burnham and her husband Martin, missionaries from Wichita, Kan., were kidnapped in the Philippines and held for more than a year by the Abu Sayyef terrorist group. Martin was killed in the rescue attempt. Today, Gracia Burnham expressed relief and happiness at the news that Abu Sayyef’s leader, Abu Sulaiman, was killed yesterday in a gun battle with the Philippine Army. "I’m glad they finally got him," Burnham said, "and that is an unusual thing for me to say." Burnham heard the news early this morning. Sulaiman is the 4th leader of Abu Sayyef, an al Qaeda-linked terror group, to be killed since she was rescued. She said that when she heard the news of the other deaths, she felt a sense of sadness but not this time. THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS Body of Al Qaeda-Linked Terrorist May Have Been Found in the Philippines Click Here to See the Slideshows on the Brian Ross Homepage "He was the most dangerous of the group," she said. "His dream was to go to the United States and ‘wreak some havoc,’ that’s what he said," remembered Burnham. After her rescue, Burnham was debriefed by the U.S., and she warned officials from the State Department that Sulaiman was the person on which they needed to focus. She and Martin spent their year-plus of captivity in the jungle sleeping just a few hammocks away from Sulaiman every night. Click Here for More Blotter Coverage. "He had a deep-seated hatred and bitterness towards the West," she said. "He also had this arrogance that he may someday do harm to the U.S." The Burnhams were in captivity on Sept. 11, 2001, when Sulaiman called Martin over to his hammock to listen to the radio as the news of the attacks on the World Trade Center was breaking. "He was just so happy," Gracia says Martin relayed to her. The Burnhams were celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary on a trip to a tropical resort when they were kidnapped in 2001. Today she is celebrating her birthday with her children. "I feel like God has not forgotten me today," she said. "This is a decided victory, but the war is not over."

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