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Attack on US Troops in Philippines Is First Since Their Arrival - 2002-06-17

U.S. troops in the southern Philippines have come under fire from suspected Abu Sayyaf terrorists. It is the first reported combat involving American forces since they began their counter-terrorist training mission in February.

A Pentagon spokesman says U.S. Marines and Philippine troops providing security for a U.S. Navy construction crew were shot at Monday on the southern island of Basilan.

The spokesman says there were no American or Philippine military casualties. But, he says, some of the suspected Abu Sayyaf attackers were believed killed.

About 1,200 U.S. troops are in the southern Philippines, some involved in the actual training of Philippine soldiers in counter-terrorist tactics, others involved in construction projects including road building and well drilling.

The training mission, launched in February, is part of the Bush administration's crackdown on worldwide terrorism. Other training missions are underway in Georgia and Yemen.

The Bush administration is considering extending the training program in the Philippines and allowing U.S. military personnel to accompany Philippine soldiers on actual patrols.

However, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says no decision has yet been made on that proposal.

U.S. ground personnel are currently restricted to conducting training at the battalion or headquarters level and have not gone out on any missions aimed at locating and apprehending Abu Sayyaf terrorists.