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Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
US hostage family pays ransom
Martin and Gracia Burnham
The Burnhams have been held for nearly a year
The family of an abducted American missionary couple, Martin and Gracia Burnham, has confirmed it made a deal with the Abu Sayyaf rebels in the Philippines who are holding them.

Can any family ever believe the promises of the Abu Sayyaf in the future?

Paul Burnham
But they say the group later reneged on the deal, which they say was struck last month.

The Philippine Government had denied that any ransom had been paid to the Abu Sayyaf, who regularly engage in kidnap for money.

But officials speaking off the record in Washington a few weeks ago said that a large sum of cash - said to total $300,000 - had indeed been handed over to the kidnappers.

'Lengthy negotiations'

Martin and Gracia Burham, from Wichita, Kansas were kidnapped from a luxury resort last May. They are believed to be in the jungles of southern Basilan island, along with a Filipino nurse, Ediborah Yap, sometimes known as Deborah.

Mr Burnham's father, Paul, told a radio station in the southern Philippines that in mid-March the family thought it had clinched agreement to free the three hostages.

Teaching a Philippine soldier firing technique in Lamitan
US troops are guiding the Philippines army

"On March 13, after a lengthy discussion, our family finalised an agreement with (Abu Sayyaf intermediaries) for the safe release of Martin, Gracia and Deborah," he told local radio station DXRZ on Thursday.

"But it now seems that they do not intend to keep their promise to us."

Mr Burnham said his family had appealed to Washington and Manila to exercise "control and moderation" in their attempts to free the hostages.

Bush approval

The BBC's Simon Ingram, in the southern city of Zamboanga, said the money had been raised by US Christian organisations but the deal was apparently sanctioned by the Bush administration.

Our correspondent says this is surprising, given that American soldiers are currently working alongside Philippine troops in a campaign to eradicate the Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim group that the US links with the al-Qaeda network.

Abu Sayyaf says it is fighting for a Muslim homeland but its main activity has been kidnapping for ransom. Both the US and the Philippines have repeatedly ruled out negotiating with the group.

The Philippine military may also be being helped by the country's largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Chief government spokesman Silvestre Afable announced on Thursday that President Gloria Arroyo's administration had struck a deal with the MILF to isolate and contain armed bands in the south.

See also:

25 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines rejects rebel deal
19 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Eyewitness: Philippines' lawless island
07 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
US hostages shown on Philippines TV
06 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines mayor takes on rebels
19 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine TV shows beheading video
02 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
US military faces Philippines challenge
17 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
US troops begin Philippine exercises
06 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Guide to Philippines conflict
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