A convoy of US and Philippine troops pass on a village in Jolo town in the southern Filipino province of Sulu. Abu Sayyaf militants attacked US and Filipino soldiers in the village of Bonbon in Sulu's Patikul town on Saturday, August 30, 2008 killing four local soldiers and wounding ten more. A member of the Guam Army National Guard was unharmed in the attack. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / August 31, 2008) – The Philippine military launched a “calibrated” offensive against Abu Sayyaf militants following an attack that killed four Filipino soldiers and wounded ten more in the southern island of Sulu, officials said.
US soldiers were in the military convoy when militants attacked them with mortars and automatic weapons near a marine base in the village of Bonbon in Patikul town over the weekend. The attack occurred two days before the start of the Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month.
Filipino security officials did not report about the presence of US troops in the convoy, but the Guam Army National Guard released a brief statement Saturday, confirming that a local serviceman currently was unharmed following an attack on his unit on the island.
The US soldier was not identified, but the Guam Army National Guard said the serviceman is attached to a platoon with the 294th Infantry Regiment deployed in May in Sulu to aide in the ongoing conflict there.
No other details were made available by the Philippine and US military about the American involvement in the operations against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, but the members of the 294th Infantry Regiment are assigned to the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines.
The attack came two days after Filipino and US soldiers and provincial government officials inaugurated various development and infrastructure projects in Patikul town.
Four artesian wells have been handed over to local officials in the villages of Timpook, Taung, Tanum, and Liang and a new school building in the village of Bonbon and two road projects in Liang and Bud Datu, all in Patikul.
At least 30 US soldiers, part of the Guam Army National Guard's 1st Battalion under the 294th Infantry Regiment, were deployed in Sulu to serve as security - for at least for six months - for a unit of the Special Operations Command-Pacific.
Hundreds of US troops are deployed in Sulu and other parts of the southern Philippines also conducting joint civilian-military operations and training with the Philippine military.
The humanitarian missions is part of the Balikatan, which means "shoulder-to-shoulder," an annual Philippine and US bilateral military humanitarian assistance and training activity.
Though US and Philippine government officials have consistently claimed that the unit is not involved in actual combat, US troops themselves describe their mission as "unconventional warfare" and "counter-insurgency" operations in the country. US troops join Filipino soldiers on patrol, provide them with intelligence, and assist in various aspects of their operation.
American soldiers are also active in many development and humanitarian activities in the southern Philippines, especially in Sulu province where they built roads and schools and join medical missions with local troops and provincial government mostly in poor areas.
Just earlier this year, about 600 US troops worked with civilian authorities and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in various humanitarian projects that included free medical, dental and veterinary care in Sulu province and also in central and Western part of Mindanao.
US and Philippine soldiers, many of them construction engineers, built schools and other community infrastructures in those areas. In 2006, the United States Navy hospital ship Mercy had treated more than 60,000 mostly poor Filipino patients in separate medical missions in Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi islands, including Zamboanga City, as part of the Project Bayanihan. (Mindanao Examiner)