Former Philippine terrorist leader sentenced

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 18, 2010

A federal judge in Washington sentenced the former No. 2 leader of a Philippine terrorist group to 23 years in prison Friday for his role in the kidnapping-for-ransom of 16 tourists, including four Americans, in the southern Philippines in 1995.

Madhatta Asagal Haipe, 48, was a charter member of the Abu Sayyaf group, also known as Al-Harakat Al-Islamiyyah, a militant organization linked to al-Qaeda and listed by the State Department as a terrorist group in 1997.

Haipe left the group that year for Malaysia, where he was arrested in June 2006. He was transferred to the Philippines and extradited to the United States last summer, where he pleaded guilty this July.

"Defendant Haipe committed his crime 15 years ago. The U.S. government never forgot," prosecutor Gregg A. Maisel told U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts.

Dressed in a gray-striped prison jumpsuit, Haipe apologized as victims recounted a harrowing, four-day ordeal that began Dec. 27, 1995, at a resort at Lake Sebu, 640 miles southeast of Manila.

Forty militants armed with handguns, assault rifles, bazookas and machete-like bolo knives captured the group by a mountain stream, beat and tied some of the men, and forced the group to march in sandals and T-shirts.

Haipe ordered four women freed to seek $38,000 in ransom, telling some to leave their children behind. Survivors, traveling from the Philippines and California, said emotional trauma and fear of reprisal split families, ruined careers and prompted years of medication and counseling.

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