Abu Sayyaf blamed for attack on US troops in Philippines
Zamboanga: The Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf group is believed to have placed a roadside bomb that killed two US soldiers in the southern Philippines, a Filipino military commander said Wednesday.
"We are suspecting that the Abu Sayyaf is behind the attack," said regional military chief Major General Benjamin Dolorfino.
The two American soldiers and a Filipino marine were killed Tuesday when a device placed on a dirt road in Indanan town, Jolo province, exploded, destroying the Humvee vehicle they were riding in.
It was the deadliest attack against US troops in the southern Philippines since 2001 when Washington began helping local forces stamp out the Abu Sayyaf, which is linked to foreign Islamic extremist groups.
Dolorfino said security had been increased and land travel to bring development aid to remote villages in the area had been suspended, with helicopters to be used in the meantime.
The US embassy in Manila said the US soldiers were non-combatants and were on a supply run for a school construction project when the explosion took place. But it would not say who was responsible.
Dolorfino backed up the embassy`s statement that the US troops were not involved in combat operations, saying they were helping to construct clinics, village halls, school buildings and other development projects in the region.
He said the Abu Sayyaf militants were trying to prevent development aid from reaching the populace so that they could blame the government for the lack of facilities and further feed discontent.
Dolorfino also said that the blast was caused by an improvised explosive device that "most likely" had a pressure switch for a trigger.
He said the device could not have been triggered by remote control using a mobile phone because there were no signals in the area. In addition, no one was nearby to have triggered the blast, Dolorfino said.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters in Washington on Monday it was the first time the 600-strong US contingent in the Philippines had been targeted by an improvised explosive, a frequent tactic used by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Abu Sayyaf was established in the early 1990s, allegedly with seed money from Osama bin Laden`s Al-Qaeda network, to fight for a Muslim state in the south of this mainly Roman Catholic nation.
It has kidnapped dozens of foreign aid workers, missionaries and tourists and was blamed for the country`s worst terrorist strike, the bombing of a ferry in 2004 that killed more than 100 people.
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