Fourteen Muslim militants were sentenced to life in prison Thursday for the 2001 kidnapping of a US missionary couple and 18 others in a yearlong jungle ordeal that prompted US-backed offensives against the guerrillas.
Gracia Burnham, of Wichita, Kansas, survived the captivity, but her husband, Martin, was killed during a military rescue in June 2002.
Fellow American Guillermo Sobero and 17 Filipinos also were kidnapped from the resort island of Palawan and taken by boat to nearby Basilan island, a stronghold of the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf rebels. Sobero, from Corona, California, was among several hostages beheaded by the rebels, who gained notoriety for their brutal tactics that landed them on the US terrorist list.
Most of the Abu Sayyaf leaders have been killed in fighting since the trial opened in 2003. Out of 85 suspects originally charged with kidnapping, 23 were captured and tried, and 18 appeared in court.