Abu Sayyaf: U.S. hostage 'shot in back'
By staff and wire reports
MANILA, Philippines -- One of three American hostages held by Moslem gunmen in the Philippines has reportedly been wounded in a clash between the kidnappers and government troops.
Abu Sabaya, spokesman for the Abu Sayyaf group told a local radio station the wounded man was Protestant missionary Martin Burnham who was abducted along with 19 others from a luxury resort in the southern Philippines.
"He was wounded in the back," Sabaya told radio station DXRZ in Zamboanga City. "He has several gunshot wounds in the back."
Sabaya said that Burnham was hit by bullets fired by Philippine soldiers.
He said the incident occurred three days ago, while the rebels were retreating from a firefight with the military on Basilan island province, 900 kilometres south of Manila.
He did not describe Burnham's current condition but noted that the rebels "have some people with us who can look after the hostages", apparently referring to 11 hospital staff seized over the weekend from the nearby town of Lamitan.
Neither the military nor the government is confirming the claims.
News black out imposed
A spokeswoman for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Marilyn Avila, told CNN she had no information on the latest claim.
She said the military crackdown was continuing but there was no improvement in the situation.
She added that a "news black-out" was being imposed to prevent journalists and media from being taken hostage as had occurred in the past.
In addition to the three Americans and the hospital staff, the Abu Sayyaf extremists are also holding six Filipinos seized from Dos Palmas.
Kidnappers and troops clash
The kidnappers brought the hostages seized from the Dos Palmas resort to Basilan, a remote mountainous island and have since been engaged in almost non-stop clashes with government troops.
At least nine of the Filipino captives escaped in the fighting over the weekend, but the rebels took more hostages from a hospital they occupied in the town of Lamitan.
Philippine has said she is considering martial law to quash Muslim separatists hostage takers after two soldiers were killed in violent clashes.
"Martial law is the prerogative of the president. We are studying the situation," Arroyo said, adding that consultations were ongoing.
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