Paul and Oreta Burnham behind hostage deal
What's most shocking? That a $300,000 ransom was reportedly paid to free American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham? That their captors, the militant Muslim Abu Sayyaf, apparently reneged on the deal? Or that Martin's parents, Paul and Oreta Burnham, made the deal (Or, at least, made some kind of deal)?

The elder Burnhams have denied that they were involved in the payment, but Paul went on Radio Mindanao today to ask the abductors to keep their word. "The family of Martin and Gracia are deeply saddened and disappointed to learn that the Abu Sayyaf has broadcast its intention to continue holding Martin and Gracia and Deborah Yap until additional demands are met," he said. Apparently a deal was made March 13, and on March 19 the Abu Sayyaf said they'd release the hostages within five days. As that deadline came and went, the negotiator again said they'd be released soon.

 "On behalf of the family and children of Martin and Gracia we respectfully ask the Abu Sayyaf group and [Abu Sayyaf leader] Khadaffi Janjalani to honor their agreement with us," he said. "If not, how can anyone ever trust the Abu Sayyaf again?" Again? Paul Burnham also defended trusting them in the first place. "Is it evil to make an agreement with them?" he asked.

In many people's minds, the answer to that question is yes. But it depends on the agreement—and the elder Burnhams' deal with the Abu Sayyaf may not have been the $300,000 ransom. Paul Burnham didn't explicitly mention the ransom payment, but it sure sounds like what government officials confirmed two weeks ago. But a CT reporter just this morning reached Oreta Burnham, who said, "We did not pay the ransom."

Back to Paul Burnham's question. The Washington ...

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