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6 Abu Sayyaf Rebels Indicted for Terror Acts Against US Citizens - 2002-12-11

The United States has indicted six Islamic militants from the Philippine extremist group Abu Sayyaf for terrorist acts against American citizens.

Six Abu Sayyaf guerillas have been charged for their role in the kidnapping of three American tourists from a beach resort in the Philippines last year.

Two of the victims were later killed: Californian Guillermo Sobero was beheaded by his captors, while American missionary Martin Burnham was killed in a rescue attempt. Mr. Burnham's wife was successfully rescued. Several Philippine citizens also were kidnapped at the same time. Some escaped or managed to get free after paying a ransom, but others were beheaded.

Three of the men charged Tuesday are already in Philippine custody while the other three are still at large.

This is the second set of indictments issued by the United States for Abu Sayyaf members. Five other rebels were charged in July, including leader Khadafi Janjalani and spokesman Abu Sabaya. Neither man has been captured but Philippine authorities say they think Abu Sabaya died in a shootout with government troops.

Earlier this year, the United States offered a reward of $5 million for information leading to the capture and conviction of several Abu Sayyaf commanders.

The Abu Sayyaf claims to be fighting for an Islamic state in the southern part of the predominantly Christian Philippines. However, the group gained international notoriety for a series of kidnappings and executions. Washington says the group has links to the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Manila has been one of the strongest Asian supporters in the war against terror. Early this year, U.S. troops spent six months training Philippine soldiers in counter-terrorism tactics aimed at eliminating the Abu Sayyaf and other local terrorist groups.