U.S. Hostage Dead in Philippines

ByABC News
June 7, 2002, 5:02 AM

M A N I L A, Philippines. June 7 -- An American missionary and a Filipina nurse were killed today when the Philippine military launched a raid to rescue them from the Islamic radicals holding them captive in the jungle. The missionary's wife was freed but suffered a gunshot wound.

Elite Scout Rangers zeroed in on members of the Muslim separatist group Abu Sayyaf at around 2:30 p.m. local time near the southern town of Siraway, Philippine military officials said. They learned the rebels were accompanied by Martin and Gracia Burnham, missionaries from Wichita, Kan., who were taken captive more than a year ago, and nurse Ediborah Yap.

After radioing to their base for permission to liberate the prisoners, the U.S.-trained Rangers launched an attack. During the two-hour gunfight that ensued, Martin Burnham, 42, and Yap were killed, and Gracia Burnham was wounded. It was not clear if they were shot by their captors or hit in the crossfire.

Four Abu Sayyaf rebels were killed and eight Filipino soldiers were wounded, one seriously, Philippine military officials said.

Gracia Burnham, 43, was evacuated to a military hospital in the city of Zamboanga, where she underwent surgery for a gunshot wound to the leg.

"I was so happy when I got out of the jungle," she told doctors in Zamboanga, according to The Associated Press.

She reportedly also said her husband's death was "part of God's plan."

Philippine military officials said she would be taken to Manila, the capital, for further treatment. Her condition was described as "weak, but out of danger."

Martin Burnham's body was being flown on a U.S. plane to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, Japan, a Pentagon spokesman said.

Operation Daybreak

Sources told ABCNEWS the rescue attempt was not a planned operation. The Scout Rangers discovered the three hostages while in the middle of an extended operation code-named "Daybreak."

Operation Daybreak was being coordinated by U.S. personnel and involved U.S. technology, and the Philippine military had been tracking the rebels with the help of U.S. air reconnaissance. But both U.S. and Philippine officials said no American troops were in the field at the time of the rescue attempt.