MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Former hostage Gracia Burnham left the Philippines on Monday to reunite with her children in America, offering her gratitude before she departed to the U.S. and Philippine soldiers who risked their lives to rescue her and her husband.
Sometimes smiling and once near tears, Burnham demanded her Muslim separatist captors be brought to justice for the kidnapping that left her husband dead. The couple was kidnapped in May 2001.
"We needed every single prayer you said for us during our ordeal in the jungle," the 43-year-old said in a brief statement she read at the airport Monday. She was in a wheelchair with a gunshot wound to her right thigh. "We especially want to thank the military men, the Americans, the Filipinos who risked and even gave their lives to rescue us."
Burnham was rescued Friday when Philippine soldiers ambushed her kidnappers, members of the Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf group. Her husband, Martin, and Filipino hostage Ediborah Yap were killed in the two-hour shootout.
Burnham, who suffered a year of poor diet and frequent shootouts in the jungles of the southern Philippines, said her captors "should be treated as common criminals. We support all efforts of the government in bringing these men to justice."
Without elaborating, she said the rebels "repeatedly lied to" the couple from Wichita, Kan. The guerrillas reneged on several promises to release the hostages.
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