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Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 06:12 GMT
US holds firm on Philippines hostages
Fighters from the Abu Sayyaf rebel group
The rebels say they want a separate Muslim state
The United States has said it will not negotiate a deal or agree to a ransom to free an American couple held hostage by Muslim rebels in the Philippines, after the two made a televised appeal for their release.


Anyone who can solve this crisis, we would appreciate very much

Gracia Burnham
Instead, Washington demanded the release of the two missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham, who have been held by the Abu Sayyaf Islamic separatist group for six months.

"I think we have made clear we don't make concessions to terrorists," US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

The United States has linked Abu Sayyaf to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network and has promised to increase military assistance to help Manila combat the group.

Complaints

The couple complained in an interview broadcast on local television that the Philippines Government's efforts to win their release had failed.

Martin and Gracia Burnham
The Burnhams are both in their early forties

"We know that the Philippine Government is doing everything to rescue us," Mr Burnham said in an interview with local television station Net-25.

"I don't want to sound disrespectful, but it's not working," he said in the interview conducted in a forested area in Basilan and watched by the Abu Sayyaf abductors.

"Anyone who can solve this crisis, we would appreciate very much," his tearful wife said.

Exhausted

Earlier this month, Martin and Gracia Burnham, who were seized from a luxury tourist resort in the western Philippines in May, gave a letter addressed to their families to one of seven hostages recovered by Philippine troops.

Still held:
Martin Burnham
Gracia Burnham
Deborah Yap

Besides the Burnhams, the kidnappers are now believed to be holding just one other hostage - Filipino nurse Deborah Yap.

Most of the hostages taken in May were freed by the rebels after alleged ransom payments - but the group seized more Filipino hostages, including the nurse, in Lamitan town on Basilan on 2 June.

The woman who carried the Burnhams' letter said the Americans were exhausted after being taken from one hideout to another by the kidnappers.

See also:

15 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines hostages 'suffering'
02 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Manila rejects talks with kidnappers
10 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
US bolsters Manila's rebel crackdown
11 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Negotiating with the Abu Sayyaf
28 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Filipino rebel group claim kidnappings
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