US troops arrive on hostage island

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 20 Apr 2002 14:40:13 +0100

MessageUS troops arrive on hostage island

 Hundreds of US army engineers have arrived on the Philippine island of Basilan 
to bolster Manila's efforts to hunt down a Muslim kidnap gang said to be linked 
to the al-Qaeda terror network. 
The arrival of the 300 engineers brings the number of US troops in the southern 
Philippines to more than 1,000. 

They will build landing strips and pave roads so that Philippine troops and 
supplies can be moved around more quickly in operations against the Abu Sayyaf 
group, Pentagon officials said. 

However, given Philippine sensitivity over the return of the former colonial 
power, the Americans are not supposed to do any actual fighting. 

"Our mission here is to train, advise and assist the Philippine military to 
beat terrorism in the southern Philippines," said Brigadier-General Donald 
Wurster, commander of US forces there. 

The engineers will also dig wells in impoverished parts of Basilan and work on 
other civic projects. 

The aim, says the BBC's John McLean in Manila, is to win the hearts and minds 
of the local population, some of whom - willingly or unwillingly - support Abu 

Al-Qaeda links 

A US missionary couple and a Filipina nurse have been held hostage by Abu 
Sayyaf rebels for more than 10 months on Basilan. 

The United States has linked Abu Sayyaf to the al-Qaeda network and its leader 
Osama Bin Laden, who it suspects of masterminding the 11 September attacks on 
New York and Washington. 

      Protesters say the stationing of US troops is an attack on Philippines 
A Pentagon spokesman said the engineers, known as Seabees, would be deployed 
for three months - at a cost of around $3.9m. 

The engineers were guarded by US marines as they disembarked from the USS 
Germantown, a 184.5-metre (609-foot) landing ship off Basilan. 

They unloaded bulldozers and other heavy equipment, which was then taken to a 
Philippine army camp on the outskirts of Isabela, the island's capital. 

Source: BBC online


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