Tuesday, September 15, 2009

US troops escape blast in Jolo

Undated photos show US troops in the southern Philippine province of Sulu. A blast hit a wharf in the capital town of Jolo where US troops are unloading equipment from a boat on Monday, September 14, 2009. (Midnanao Examiner Photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / September 15, 2009) – An explosion hit a wharf in the southern Philippine town of Jolo while US soldiers were unloading equipment from a boat, officials told the Mindanao Examiner on Tuesday.

Officials said the blast occurred late Monday, but there were no reports of casualties.

“There is an ongoing investigation into the blast. Soldiers found no shrapnel in the area and we still don’t know who was behind it,” said Major Ramon David Hontiveros, a spokesman for the Philippine military’s Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City.

He said the explosion occurred near a military detachment adjacent a building where stalls are selling small electronic appliances and textiles. Hontiveros said a pillbox was probably used in the attack since no fragments of explosive were found in the area.

The military earlier said a grenade exploded in the wharf where the American troops were unloading cargoes from their boat.

Locals also reported they heard a burst of automatic gunfire following the explosion. Other reports said soldiers indiscriminately fired their weapons, hitting a nearby mosque and small buildings, but this was denied by Hontiveros.

“That’s not true,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Police has begun an investigation into the explosion. “We have dispatched a team to investigate the blast,” Inspector Usman Pingay, the town’s police chief, told by phone from Jolo.

Pingay said the wharf was tightly secured by local soldiers and policemen at the time of the blast.

Dozens of US troops are deployed in Jolo the past years and have been assisting local military in defeating Abu Sayyaf terrorism. They have put up a base inside a military headquarters, but it is off-limits to Filipino soldiers.

American soldiers are also helping in various humanitarian projects aimed at winning hearts and minds and get the support of the local Muslims. (Mindanao Examiner)

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