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Posted: 5/6/2003 4:00:03 PM EDT

Former missionary hostage says her captors, Filipino military colluded

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - An American missionary held hostage for more than a year has accused the Philippine military of colluding with her captors, saying a general demanded a 50 percent cut of the ransom.

In her newly released book, "In the Presence of My Enemies," Gracia Burnham described her 377-day ordeal at the hands of the Abu Sayyaf group. It ended with a bloody army rescue on June 7 that left her husband, Martin, and Philippine nurse Ediborah Yap dead.

She said members of the Philippine military provided rice, sugar and other food for the Muslim guerrillas holding her captive. She said she was told it was because Abu Sayyaf was "wheeling and dealing" with the general in the region, who wanted a cut of the ransom.

She said the guerrillas offered 20 percent; the general wanted 50 percent. Negotiations between the two sides ultimately broke down, she said.

Philippine army chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Camiling, commander of the southern Philippines in the early weeks of the abduction, on Tuesday denied any collusion between the rebels and the military. He suggested Burnham and the other captives may have been tricked.

"They were inside; their minds could easily be controlled by Abu Sabaya and the rebels who could have fed them wrong information and acted out some drama," Camiling said. "How can she say they were soldiers? She was misled."

The book also connected the Muslim extremists to Osama Bin Laden's terrorist organization. She said that in May 2001 - three months before the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon - her captors told Martin Burnham to say in a ransom message that he was being held by "the Osama bin Laden group."

She also disputed Abu Sayyaf's claims that the group never received a $330,000 ransom payment made for the release of the Kansas missionaries. She did not disclose the source of the money.

Burnham recounted how some of her captors gleefully spent their share of the ransom money: Each group member got at least $200. Some spent their share buying huge sacks of cookies, one bought a big tub of fried chicken, another bought a tape player and some music.

Contrary to earlier Philippine military claims, Burnham said it was gunfire from soldiers that wounded her and killed her husband and Yap during the rescue operation in a mountain forest. She said the injuries came before the Abu Sayaff were able to take position and return fire.

Glicero Sua, a retired army general who supervised the rescue, said Mrs. Burnham's account could be true but added there has been no final conclusion on the source of the bullets that hit the hostages.

"The probability is there," Sua said, but stressed that the military took pains to ensure the safety of the hostages.

Copyright © 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Copyright © The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises
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