FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
TUESDAY, JULY 23, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Roscoe Howard, Jr. announced today the return of an indictment charging five leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group in connection with their deadly hostage-taking activities against Americans and others in the Philippines. The five-count indictment returned today mirrors a previous indictment that was returned, under seal, by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia in February 2002. The indictment charges the five named defendants with Conspiracy Resulting in Death, Hostage-Taking and three counts of Hostage-Taking Resulting in Death.
The previous indictment was filed under seal primarily because of concern that publicity about the indictment might further endanger the lives of the hostages who were then being held by the Abu Sayyaf Group, including two American missionaries, Martin and Gracia Burnham, and a Filipina nurse, Ediborah Yap. On June 7, 2002, Martin Burnham and Ms. Yap died in the firefight that followed when Philippine military forces encountered the Abu Sayyaf Group holding the hostages. Gracia Burnham, who was shot in the leg during the encounter, was rescued.
The indictment returned by the grand jury today updates the previous indictment by adding Martin Burnham and Ediborah Yap to the list of people whose death resulted from these criminal acts.
"With today's indictment, the United States sends a signal: We will work to track down and prosecute all those who would commit barbaric acts of terrorism against Americans, here at home and abroad," said Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson. "The Justice Department is committed to working with the government of the Philippines to bring the leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group to justice."
The Conspiracy charged in the indictment dates back to August 2000, when the Abu Sayyaf Group is alleged to have kidnaped Jeffrey Schilling, an American who was then living in the southern Philippines. Mr. Schilling was held hostage for more than seven months by the Abu Sayyaf Group. During Mr. Schilling's captivity, some of the demands allegedly made by the Abu Sayyaf Group were the release of certain convicted prisoners in the United States and the payment of $10 million in ransom. The indictment alleges that the Abu Sayyaf Group repeatedly made known its threats to kill Mr. Schilling if their demands were not met. Mr. Schilling eventually managed to escape from captivity on April 12, 2001, after more than seven months as a hostage.
The indictment further alleges that, on May 27, 2001, about six weeks after Mr. Schilling's escape, the Abu Sayyaf Group kidnaped 20 individuals, including three United States citizens – Martin Burnham, Gracia Burnham and Guillermo Sobero – from the Dos Palmas Island Resort, a dive resort located on the island of Palawan in the Philippines. The Abu Sayyaf Group allegedly repeated the same type of demands they made when they kidnaped Mr. Schilling and again threatened to kill the hostages if their demands were not met. On June 11, 2001, the Abu Sayyaf Group brutally beheaded American hostage Guillermo Sobero. The next day, one of the leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group allegedly made a telephone call to a radio station in the Philippines to take credit on behalf of the group for the barbaric killing of Mr. Sobero.
The Abu Sayyaf Group gets its name from "Abu Sayyaf," meaning "Father of the Sword" or "Bearer of the Sword" in Arabic. The group is also known as Al-Harakat Al-Islamiyyah, meaning "the Islamic Movement." Since 1997, the Abu Sayyaf Group has been designated by the State Department as a "foreign terrorist organization." The group's written charter states, among other things that the purpose of the group is either to establish an Islamic government in the southern Philippines or to "reach Martyrdom in Allah 's way" and that the group considers jihad (holy war) "as the only method and alternative to stop and root out aggression, tyranny, injustice, and oppression."
The five leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group who are named in the indictment, together with their alleged role in the ASG, are:
(1)KHADAFI ABUBAKAR JANJALANI, also known as ABU MUKTAR, who serves as an Amir, or spiritual leader, of the ASG;
(2)ISNILON TOTONI HAPILON, also known as ABU MUSAB, also known as "the Deputy," who serves as the deputy, or second-in-command, to the Amir of the ASG;
(3)ALDAM TILAO, also known as ABU SABAYA, also known as ABU CATADA, also known as ABU AHMAD SALAYUDDIN, who serves as a spokesperson for the ASG;
(4)JAINAL ANTEL SALI, JR., also known as ABU SOLAIMAN, also known as
"the Engineer," who serves as a commander for the ASG, as well as an intelligence officer and occasionally as a spokesperson; and
(5)HAMSIRAJI MARUSI SALI, also known as JOSE RAMIREZ, also known as TIBERKIS, who serves as a commander and group leader for the ASG.
"The United States Government would like to take this opportunity to extend our thanks and appreciation to the Government of the Philippines for their unflinching cooperation in this effort to bring the leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group to justice," said Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, noting that President Arroyo, a staunch ally in the global war on terrorism, has expressed an unwavering determination to bring to justice or destroy the Abu Sayyaf terrorists.
The criminal investigation of this matter has been conducted by the Honolulu Field Office of the F.B.I.., with the cooperation and assistance of Philippines military, law enforcement and intelligence authorities. The prosecution of this matter in the United States is being handled jointly by the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia and the Terrorism and Violent Crime Section of the Department of Justice's Criminal Division. Efforts continue in the Philippines to apprehend the indicted leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group. These efforts include a reward of up to $5 million offered by the United States Government, under the State Department's "Rewards for Justice" program, for information leading to the arrest and conviction of each of these five terrorists.