American Missionary Killed During Rescue Operation in Philippines

MANILA, Philippines, JUNE 7, 2002 ( An American evangelical missionary was killed during a shootout between Philippine security forces and Muslim extremists.

The deceased, Martin Burnham, 42, and his wife, Grace, had been kidnapped in the Palawan Islands by Abu Sayyaf extremists in May 2001, together with Californian William Sobero and 17 Filipinos, the Misna missionary agency reported.

The Philippine army´s attempt to free the hostages today was turned into a fierce battle, in which Grace Burnham was wounded. Eventually she was taken to safety, President Gloria Macapagal said.

The Burnhams, natives of Wichita, Kansas, had worked in the region for 15 years. They were celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary when they were kidnapped.

Abu Sayyaf is active in the south of the country and has links with Osama bin Laden´s al-Qaeda terrorist organization. U.S. and Philippine military forces are working jointly to rid the region of Abu Sayyaf.