DAVAO CITY, Philippines - An American missionary held hostage for more that a year was killed yesterday when U.S.-trained Philippine troops moved in to try to rescue him and his wife from their militant Islamic captors.
The missionary, Martin Burnham, 42, of Rose Hill, Kan., died in a shootout between the troops and the militants, who belong to the group Abu Sayyaf. A Filipina nurse was also killed. Burnham's wife, Gracia, 43, also a missionary, was reported wounded in the right thigh, but was said to be out of danger after surgery in a military hospital.
Four of the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers were killed and seven soldiers of the Scout Rangers were wounded in the shootout between the towns of Sibuco and Sirawai, in the southern province of Zamboanga del Norte. Philippine officials said no American troops were involved in yesterday's action.
Burnham was killed by a gunshot, said Gen. Narciso Abaya, the Philippine deputy military chief of staff, but it was unclear if the shot came from the rebel group or from the troops.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines told President Bush that her government would hold the rebels accountable for Burnham's death.
"She assured me that the Philippine government would hold the terrorist group accountable for how they treated these Americans, that justice would be done," Bush told reporters in Washington.
Gracia Burnham was flown to Manila en route to the United States, where she has three school-age children.
"I was so happy when I got out of the jungle," she told doctors. And she said her husband's death was part of God's plan: "That is God's liking. That is probably his destiny."
The Burnham family said it was thankful that his wife had survived.
"Obviously it hasn't turned out the way we were expecting it to turn out," Burnham's brother, Doug, said in a statement. "But we are thankful that Gracia is alive, and ... our faith in the Lord is still the same. It doesn't change, and that's what we're going to hang on to."
Burnham's parents, Paul and Oreta Burnham, were at their home in Rose Hill, Kan., yesterday when they received news of his death.
"The Lord will give us the strength to get through this," Paul Burnham said. He added that he had received a telephone call from Arroyo.
The missionary group to which the Burnhams belonged said it was saddened by the news.
"We would ask you to please pray especially for Gracia at this time, for her three children and their extended families and all those who have been affected by this difficult and tragic news," the New Tribes Mission said in a statement.
The Burnhams were kidnapped May 27, 2001 from a resort on Palawan island, southwest of Luzon.
The Filipina who also died yesterday, Ediborah Yap, was abducted days later when the Abu Sayyaf militants with the Burnhams in tow raided a hospital in the southern town of Lamitan to seize hospital staff and medicine to treat their wounded.
About 1,000 American troops have been sent to the southern Philippines after that to train and advise Philippine soldiers in combating terrorism as well as assist them, through training and intelligence gathering, in rescuing the hostages.
The Scout Rangers had been tracking the Abu Sayyaf for three weeks, after the rebels moved to mainland Mindanao from Basilan island, where the Philippine military, aided by hundreds of United States troops, had been hunting them down.
The rebels, who say they are fighting to establish a Muslim state out of the southern Philippines, kidnapped 18 other people, including 17 Filipinos and a resident of Corona, Calif., Guillermo Sobero.
Sobero was beheaded by the guerrillas in June 2001, according to U.S. and Philippine officials.