WASHINGTON - In an action meant to show U.S. resolve, the Justice Department announced yesterday the indictment of five suspected members of a terrorist group in connection with the death of a kidnapped missionary in the Philippines.
The indictments identified the five as Khadafi Abubakar Janjalani, described as the spiritual leader of the Abu Sayyaf guerrilla group; Isnilon Totoni Hapilon, the second in command; Aldam Tilao, a spokesman for the group; Jainal Antel Sali Jr., an intelligence officer; and Hamsiraji Marusi Sali, a group leader.
Since none of those named is in custody, the government's move seemed largely symbolic. The five are charged with conspiracy resulting in death, hostage-taking and three counts of hostage-taking resulting in death.
"The United States sends a signal," Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson said. "We will work to track down and prosecute all those who commit barbaric acts of terrorism here at home and abroad."
The government has maintained that Abu Sayyaf is affiliated with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, although the latter is not mentioned in the documents released yesterday.
President Bush has sent more than 1,000 troops to the Philippines to help its military deal with the guerrillas, who have terrorized the country with a series of kidnappings. Some hostages have been killed, a few have escaped and others have been freed after ransom was paid.
Martin Burnham, a U.S. missionary held for more than a year, was killed June 7 in a gunbattle between his captors and Filipino soldiers. His wife, Gracia, was wounded.
A Filipino nurse, Ediborah Yap, who was also being held by the guerrillas, was wounded and died soon afterward, the Philippine military said. Four guerrillas were reported killed in the battle.
Another American, Guillermo Sobero of Corona, Calif., was one of several captives beheaded by the guerrillas last year.