Camp Bagong Diwa (eTN) – A special court on Thursday handed life sentences to 14 militants from al-Qaeda linked terrorist group Abu Sayyaf for the 2001 kidnapping of 20 tourists in a beach resort in Palawan, Philippines TV network ABS-CBN News reports.
One hostage was beheaded and three others shot dead during the notorious episode. United States citizens were among the dead.
Four suspects were acquitted by the court but it allowed only one of these to be released as the three other defendants are still facing other kidnapping cases.
The United States government welcomed the verdict. “It sends a strong message about the mobility of the Philippine law enforcement to deal with terrorist activities through the criminal justice system.
It shows that the rule of law applies in the Philippines in terrorism cases,” said Robert Courtney, US Department of Justice attache at the US embassy to the Philippines, cited by the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper’s website.
The Abu Sayyaf group raided Dos Palmas resort in Puerto Princesa City in May, 2001 and took hostage a group of tourists who were then taken boat to the restive southern island of Basilan, triggering a 13-month manhunt aided by US military advisers.
The gunmen beheaded Peru-born American hostage Guillermo Sobero, while US missionary Martin Burnham and three other hostages were shot dead when Filipino troops attempted to storm the kidnappers’ lair in June 2002.
Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for the worst terrorist attacks in the Philippines, including a February 2004 ferry bombing on Manila that claimed more than 100 lives.