ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 2, 2009) – The US Department of Defense said the two American soldiers killed in a roadside bombing in the southern Philippines were members of the Special Forces.

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29 September 2009

Defense officials identified those killed as 37-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Christopher D. Shaw of Markham in Illinois, and 26-year-old Staff Sgt. Jack M. Martin III of Bethany, Oklahoma.

“The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died Sept. 29 in Jolo Island, the Philippines, from the detonation of an improvised-explosive device. The soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, Fort Lewis, Wash.,” it said in a statement.

The duo died Tuesday after suspected Abu Sayyaf militants ambushed their convoy in the village of Kagay in Sulu’s Indanan town. One Filipino marine was also killed in the attack.

The Defense Department said the two slain soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group at Fort Lewis.

The statement denied previous pronouncements by the US Embassy in Manila and Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines that those killed were members of the US Navy Seabees involved in humanitarian projects in Sulu, one of five provinces under the troubled Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.

Western Mindanao military chief, Marine Major General Benjamin Dolorfino and Philippine military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Brawner told reporters that the slain US soldiers were non-combatants and that they were involved in a school and road projects in Sulu, where security forces are battling Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya militants, backed by Moro rebels.

Dolorfino said troops were tracking down at least four most senior Abu Sayyaf leaders – Dr Abu, Albader Parad, Isnilon Hapilon and Yasser Igasan – including two foreign Jemaah Islamiya terrorists Mauiya and Quayem and some 200 followers.

The US Department of Defense said the incident is under being investigated.

The killing of the two US Special Forces soldiers further bolstered suspicions that American troops joined counterterrorism operations in Sulu where 42 militants and soldiers were killed in recent clashes in Indanan town.

US troops have been are deployed in Sulu since 2006 and assisting the Philippine military in defeating the Abu Sayyaf. Although security officials deny US forces were directly involved in combat operations, there were numerous reports from civilians and various civil groups that American soldiers actually participated in the operations aimed at capturing or killing militant leaders in Sulu and other parts of Mindanao.

On Thursday, Moro rebels ambushed marine troops in Sulu’s Panamao town and sparking a fierce firefight that left one soldier and three gunmen dead. Nine soldiers were also wounded in the clashes.

The MNLF signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996, but many of its members were disgruntled with the accord and accused the government of failing to uplift their living standards.
Madarang Sali, deputy supreme commander of the Bangsamoro National Liberation Front, said military offensive targeted the MNLF in Sulu. He said government operations were directed as MNLF leader Khaid Ajibunm who had escaped a military raid last week. It was unknown whether the MNLF had anything to do with the attack on the US forces. (Mindanao Examiner)

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