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No US Involvement in Philippines Hostage Rescue Operation - 2002-06-07

America's top military commander says U.S. forces were not involved in an attempt by the Philippine armed forces to rescue hostages held by Muslim guerrillas that resulted in the deaths of two of the captives. General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the United States will continue to train Philippine forces in counter-terrorism operations.

General Myers, speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels, says U.S. forces did not participate in the attempt to free the hostages being held by the Abu Sayyaf rebels.

"To the best of my knowledge, there was no U.S. involvement in this operation," he said.

An American missionary, Martin Burnham, and a Filipina nurse, Edeborah Yap, were killed during the gun-battle between government troops and the guerrillas in the southern Philippines.

Mr. Burnham's wife, Gracia, was wounded during the rescue attempt, and, according to General Myers, was flown to a hospital aboard a U.S. military helicopter.

The Burnhams were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf more than a year ago. Ms. Yap was seized by the guerrillas later.

Over the past four months, 1,000 U.S. military advisers have been training Philippine troops pursuing Abu Sayyaf, which is alleged to have links to Osama Bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist group. General Myers says he expects those U.S. training operations to continue.

"The reason that we went to assist and train the Philippine armed forces was to fight the Abu Sayyaf group," said the general, " and that task is still before us, and to help the Philippine armed forces be more proficient in counter-terrorism capability."

General Myers was in Brussels attending a NATO defense ministers' meeting that ended on Friday.

The ministers agreed to adapt their armed forces to face the new challenges of terrorism and the spread of chemical and biological weapons, after hearing U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warn that a new attack against a NATO country with weapons of mass destruction is possible at any time.