21 February 2003
Pentagon Sends Troops to Philippines to Help Fight Abu Sayyaf Group
(U.S. and Philippines to conduct joint operations against terror
Following is the text of a February 21 news article from the American
Forces Press Service on U.S.-Philippine operations against the Abu
Sayyaf terrorist group:
American Forces Press Service
U.S., Philippines to Operate Against Abu Sayyaf Terrorists
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2003 -- U.S. and Philippine forces will conduct
combined operations against the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in the
Southern Philippines, DoD officials said today.
Philippine and U.S. officials have been discussing the situation for
several months, DoD officials said. A high- level U.S. team worked out
the final details earlier this month.
About 350 U.S. special operations personnel from the Army, Navy and
Air Force will work with Philippine soldiers in the Sulu Archipelago.
Another 750 Americans will provide logistics support from the
headquarters in Zamboanga on Mindanao Island.
In addition, elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, based in
Okinawa, Japan, and the USS Essex Amphibious Ready Group will provide
additional support if needed. The forces afloat bring quick reaction
teams, command and control assets, aviation support and medical
support to the effort.
Officials said U.S. assessment teams are ready to deploy to Jolo
Island in the center of the archipelago. The area is the new center of
Abu Sayyaf activity. DoD officials said "hundreds" of Abu Sayyaf
terrorists are in the area. Abu Sayyaf is linked with Osama bin
Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.
While the group styles itself as working toward a Muslim country in
the southern Philippines, it operates like an outlaw gang. It kidnaps
for ransom, extracts tribute from civilians in the area and threatens
stability in a predominantly Muslim area.
This is the second time in the global war on terror that U.S. forces
have aided the Philippines against Abu Sayyaf. Last year, U.S. Special
Forces trainers worked with the Philippine military on Basilan Island,
once a stronghold of the terrorist group, on the northern end of the
In May 2001, the group kidnapped 20 tourists from a Dos Palmas Island
resort. The hostages included three Americans, Martin and Gracia
Burnham and Guillermo Sobero. Abu Sayyaf beheaded Sobero. In a June
2002 raid, Philippine forces rescued Gracia Burnham, but Abu Sayyaf
forces murdered her husband during the fighting.
Later that month, Philippine forces overran several Abu Sayyaf camps
and reportedly killed a major group leader, Abu Sabaya, in a predawn
gunfight in boats at sea between Mindanao and Basilan islands.
Witnesses said Sabaya was shot dead and fell overboard; his body was
Abu Sayyaf shifted its attention from Basilan to other areas of the
archipelago. On Oct. 2, 2002, the group planted a bomb that killed
three persons including American soldier Sgt. 1st Class Mark Wayne
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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