MANILA — A Philippine court convicted 14 Muslim militants today of abducting a U.S. missionary couple and 18 others in a string of 2001 kidnappings that resulted in the deaths of two Americans and prompted Washington to start training Filipino troops.
Most of the top leaders of Abu Sayyaf, which orchestrated the abductions at a resort, have been killed since the trial opened in 2003. Philippine officials have credited the U.S. counter-terrorism training that began in 2002 for many of the successes against the group, which has links to Al Qaeda.
Of 85 suspects charged with kidnapping, 23 were captured and tried, and 18 others appeared in court.
Fourteen were sentenced today to life in prison and four were acquitted. Four others were killed in an attempted prison break in 2005, and one has been cleared of charges.
Among those acquitted was the only woman in the group, Satra Tilao, the disabled sister of rebel leader Abu Sabaya, who was killed by troops after the abductions.