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Soldiers tie yellow ribbons on M-16 rifles                                           Dec. 2001

Zamboanga City -  Soldiers engaged in the battle against the Abu Sayyaf have tied yellow ribbons on their M-16 rifles . The ribbons, according to one soldier, serves as an "inspiration" because somebody is waiting for him to come home for Christmas.

The soldiers are on a mission to safely rescue three people abducted by the Abu Sayyaf. The three hostages still at the hands of the Muslim extremists are American Missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham and Filipina nurse Deborah Yap.

The soldiers have started tying yellow ribbons on their firearms since the start of the rescue efforts. The ribbons would be removed only after the hostage crisis had ended and the hostages rescued safely. Only then would the soldiers start heading home to their families, hopefully before Christmas. 

Brig. Gen. Glicerio Sua, commander of the Task Force Comet said that the yellow ribbon is a symbolism, a rallying point . It is the desire of the military that the operations would be over by Christmas.

U.S. Soldiers arrive in Zamboanga

An unspecified number of U.S. soldiers belonging to the "Special Operations Command" based in Hawaii landed at the Edwin Andrews Airbase in Zamboanga . Earlier, two groups of U.S. military advisers made preliminary visits to this city and the nearby Basilan island to scout for sites to be used for training Filipino elite troops going after the Abu Sayyaf, which the U.S. government had identified as linked to terrorist suspect Osama Bin Laden.

A Philippine Army spokesman stressed however, that the American soldiers would not take part in any actual combat operations but only to train and advise local troops. He did not rule out , however, of actual American involvement in operations in the future.

Home before Christmas

The Philippine military has imposed a deadlinePhilippine Army soldiers aboard APC somewhere in Basilan searching for the Abu Sayaf kidnappers to rescue the three remaining hostages before Christmas and this seemed to have become a rallying point for the Filipino troops. " We'll try our best to rescue them before Christmas , so I would be with my family in the Visayas by Christmas. They're waiting for me." says one soldier.

Blue Christmas

Continues rain hampered rescue efforts and with only three days before Christmas, military helicopters dropped food rations and supplies good for a week , an indication that the soldiers would be spending Christmas in the hostile jungles of Basilan. A Philippine military spokesman said there would be no Christmas breaks for the soldiers.

Soldiers blamed the delay on bad weather and unfamiliar terrain.

Another batch of US soldiers arrive in Zamboanga City    Jan.2002

Amid cheers from the predominantly  Christian residents of Zamboanga, US soldiers arrived bringing with them huge communication equipments , high tech gadgets which awed most residents in the area. 

Zamboanga City Mayor Ma. Clara Lobregat formally announced the city's support for the  American soldiers.

30 US Special Forces flew into Abu Sayyaf Stronghold Feb. 2002

About 30 US Special Forces aboard giant military helicopters flew into known Abu Sayyaf territory in Basilan purportedly to train and assist local troops involved in the pursuit of the elusive Abu Sayyaf and the rescue of the three remaining hostages still in the hands of the kidnappers. 

US Military Chopper crashes off Basilan  Feb. 22,2002                                     

An American MH-47EChinook helicopter crashed before dawn Friday, Feb. 22 , thirty minutes before its expected arrival at Mactan Airbase in Cebu. The eight-man Army crew were from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The two others were para-rescuers based in Japan. Initially, both Filipino and American officials were saying that there were no hostile fire, but recent newspaper sources indicate that the Americans were not ruling out foul play.




American Missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham  were kidnapped on May 27, 2001from the Dos Palmas Resort in Palawan, Philippines by the notorious Muslim terrorist group Abu Sayyaf , which according to U.S. intelligence is linked to the Al Queda .

Martin grew up in the Philippines whose parents were also Missionaries for more than 30 years

Ediborah Yap

Filipina nurse Ediborah Yap was taken hostage  much later and kidnapped separately when the Abu Sayaff raided the Municipal hospital of Lamitan in Basilan.

She died during the final days of the rescue in a crossfire between Abu Sayaff and pursuing Government troops.

Her body was returned to her town of Lamitan where town mates accorded her a heroine's welcome.

Her coffin aboard a Philippine Navy patrol boat approached the wharf where residents threw flowers and confetti .

Much more touching was when American soldiers volunteered to carry  her casket to her final resting place.