Tuesday, September 29, 2009

2 US soldiers, RP Marine killed in Sulu bombing

09/30/2009 MALAYA


TWO American servicemen and a Philippine Marine were killed and two other Filipino soldiers were wounded yesterday morning in a roadside bombing in front of a military detachment in Indanan town, Sulu.

Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., AFP public affairs office chief, said the Americans, who were members of the US Seabees, were to supervise the construction of the five-kilometer Kagay road in Indanan.

"It was an EID attack or improvised explosive device attack," he said.

"These US servicemen, from the data we gathered, were non-combatants," said Brawner.

He said the soldiers, who were on board a US Humvee and escorted by Philippine Marines, were on a re-supply mission.

The US servicemen were the first two casualties of the US armed forces in Mindanao since October 2002 when a military training facility in Malagutay, Zamboanga City was bombed by suspected Abu Sayyaf terrorists, resulting in the deaths of a US soldier and several Filipinos.

Early this month, a pillbox exploded at Jolo town pier in Sulu while US troops were unloading supplies from a watercraft. No one was killed or injured but the US troops and their Marine escorts fired warning shots.

Brawner said they still have no information as to the identities of the suspect or suspects but he noted that members of the Abu Sayyaf operate in the area.

Brawner said the military believes that the US-assisted projects in the area would not be affected by the incident. "We believe that the projects will still go on," he said.

He said the US soldiers have completed similar construction projects in Indanan such as the Barangay Kagay Medical Clinic, Barangay Buansa Elementary School, Barangay Buansa road, the Barangay Bato-bato road, Barangay Kagay Elementary School.

The US embassy in Manila, in a statement, confirmed the death of two servicemen but withheld their identities pending notification of their kin.

"They lost their lives serving others, and we will always be grateful for their contributions to improve the quality of life on Jolo," US Ambassador Kristie Kenney said in a statement.

Sen. Francis Escudero said the deaths of the two US soldiers emphasize the need to renegotiate the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement and the presence of American troops in Mindanao.

"Now is the time to renegotiate the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement to clarify the US role and presence in Mindanao and to correct the onerous provisions of the treaty," he said.

"In a situation where American troops are embedded in our own military, casualties are inevitable in a war of attrition," he said.

"It is my hope that this incident will not lead to direct US involvement in combat operations," he said.

Senators had adopted on second reading a resolution filed by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, calling for the renegotiation or outright abrogation of the VFA.

Escudero said the Arroyo government should explain to the people the actual benefits on the presence of American troops in Mindanao before it starts renegotiating the VFA with the US.

"The US military presence in Mindanao is aimed at protecting America’s strategic interests. Let us not fool ourselves into believing that they are there for us," he said. – With JP Lopez

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