A top U.S. military commander says the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah is a real threat in Southeast Asia, and the United States is moving to speed up arms deliveries to the Philippines to help it in the fight against terror. Douglas Bakshian reports from Manila.
Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of the U.S. Pacific forces, says more remains to be done to wipe out Jemaah Islamiyah. The group's members are responsible for the bloody 2002 bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, attacks in the Philippines and other violence in the region.
This month, Indonesia arrested two men suspected of being J.I. leaders, in what many saw as a victory in the war on terrorism. However, two key J.I. members, Dulmatin and Umar Patek, who played a part in the Bali attacks, are thought to be in the Philippines. Admiral Keating says the mission against the group goes on.
"We are making significant efforts to improve security with our armed forces of the Philippines partners, our allies," he said. "Our goal is to make the Philippines, the entire region, the entire world safer for our children, and our grandchildren. And if that means capturing and killing J.I., that is our mission."
The United States supplies Manila with training, intelligence, and equipment for counter-terrorism efforts. Admiral Keating says Washington will try to accelerate the delivery of helicopters and night combat equipment.
The Philippines also is battling the local terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, which is headquartered on the southern island of Jolo. During the past year the Philippine military has killed several of its leaders, while at the same time soldiers have built roads and schools on Jolo to win the support of local residents.
Admiral Keating toured Jolo Tuesday with Philippines military chief of staff, General Hermogenes Esperon.
"As we were driving our armored vehicles from the airfield out to the combat area, the little children were along the road waving at General Esperon and at the armed forces of the Philippine Marines. ... We enjoy the support of the residents and we think that is a terrific step, significant progress, and surely an endorsement of the work done by the armed forces of the Philippines," he said.
Keating, who is visiting the Philippines for talks on security and defense, says he does not foresee an increase in U.S. manpower in the country.
The United States has never disclosed how many military advisers and intelligence gatherers it has in the Philippines, but estimates are between 100 and 200 American personnel are training and advising Philippine troops in the south.
On another topic, the admiral said the U.S. military will try to verify whether North Korea shuts down its nuclear reactor as it has promised. He said Washington will initially rely on findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency but seek its own confirmation. North Korea has promised to shut down its Yongbyon nuclear facility and is allowing IAEA inspectors to visit it Thursday and Friday.