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Explosion Kills 2 in Southern Philippine Military Camp - 2002-10-02

At least one Philippine soldier and one American died in an explosion at a bar outside a southern Philippine military camp. Authorities say the blast appeared to be from a bomb.

Philippine officials say in addition to the military personnel, several civilians were hurt in the blast. The bar is outside a Philippine military base in Zamboanga, and when the blast occurred late Wednesday the area was busy.

Lieutenant Commander Jensin Somer, a U.S. military spokeswoman, says at least one American was killed and one was wounded by the explosion. Both were in the Army, but their names will not be released until their families have been notified.

A few hundred U.S. soldiers are in the southern Philippines. They are the last of more than 1,000 Americans who trained with Philippine soldiers for six-months in an anti-terrorism exercise. "They are doing civil action programs like refurbishing hospitals, schools, and building wells," Mr. Somer said.

The main part of the exercise was aimed at wiping out the Abu Sayyaf, an extremist group that claimed to be trying to create a Muslim state in the Philippines. But the group was best known for a series of kidnappings and murders during the past few years.

Philippine Army Colonel Alexander Yapching says the explosion appears to have been deliberate. "It could have been planted by some bad elements, which at this point in time, I am not in a position to divulge," he said.

He said Philippine authorities are investigating the explosion.

For nearly two decades, various Muslim separatist groups have fought for independence in the southern Philippines. Most rebel groups have reached peace accords with the national government.

But the Abu Sayyaf fights on, despite suffering heavy casualties this year. The group has been linked to the al-Qaida terror network led by Osama bin Laden.