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Monday, 10 June, 2002, 01:26 GMT 02:26 UK
Freed missionary calls for justice
Mindy Burnham
Mindy Brunham, 12, is in the care of her grandparents
American missionary Gracia Burnham has called for the Muslim rebels who held her captive and killed her husband to be brought to justice.


We were repeatedly lied to by the Abu Sayyaf and they are not men of honour

Gracia Burnham
She was speaking before leaving the Philippines to return home to the United States.

Her husband, Martin, and a Filipina nurse Ediborah Yap died on Friday, during an army operation to free them from the Abu Sayyaf, who had held them for over a year.

"They should be treated as common criminals," she said.

The US has said there are links between the Abu Sayyaf, who are fighting for an Islamic state in the southern Philippines, and Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Military tribute

Gracia Burnham paid tribute to the soldiers who carried out the operation.

"We especially want to thank the miltiary men... who risked and even gave their lives to rescue us," she said.

Gracia Burnham
Gracia Burnham was injured in the operation to free the hostages
It is still not clear whether Martin Burnham was killed by his captors or in crossfire during the rescue mission.

Mrs Burnham, who was wounded in the thigh during the shoot-out, was taken to the airport in a wheelchair.

"During our ordeal, we were repeatedly lied to by the Abu Sayyaf and they are not men of honour," she said.

"We support all efforts of the government in bringing these men to justice."

On Sunday, Mrs Burnham met the four children of the other dead hostage, Ediborah Yap.

"There were tears on both side," said a US embassy spokesman.

Return to Kansas

Before she left the country, Mrs Burnham thanked those the couple had worked with in the Philippines for their support.

Worshippers at the Burnhams' church in Kansas
Prayers were invaluable, said Mrs Burnham
"We needed every single prayer you prayed for us during our ordeal in the jungle," she said.

"Thank you for the precious memories you gave us during our 15 years here."

The Burnhams, who come from Kansas, were abducted from a tourist beach in May last year while they were celebrating their wedding anniversary.

They had been working in the Philippines for 15 years, as missionaries sponsored by the Florida-based New Tribes Mission.

"She is upbeat, she really believes that God is in control, and that for whatever reason, it was meant to be," said Scott Ross, a spokesman for hte mission.

She will return to the small town of Rose Hill, near Wichita, where her husband's parents have been looking after their three children.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's John McClean in Manila
"In the fighting her husband was killed"

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See also:

27 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
01 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
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11 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
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