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NZ in Philippines: 'Foreign military attaches visit Zamboanga for anti-terror effort', AF-P, 24 October 2001


25 October 2001

Zamboanga Fifteen foreign military attaches and observers visited the southern Philippines on Wednesday to assess the army's efforts in fighting terrorism in the wake of the September 11 attacks in the United States, military officials said.

The attaches, including those from the United States, Japan, South Korea, China, France, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, India and Indonesia, arrived in this city amid tight security and were taken to the regional military headquarters for a briefing.

"They are here to assess and find ways of helping the Philippine military fight terrorism," southern military chief Lieutenant General Roy Cimatu said.

He linked the visit to the US-led strikes on Afghanistan in retaliation for the September 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington.

"If this did not happen in Afghanistan, they would not have come here," Cimatu said.

On Tuesday, a five-man team of US military advisers arrived in Zamboanga City to see what kind of assistance the United States can provide the Philippines to boost its anti-terror capabilities.

"They will see what training is needed to help our armed forces fight terrorism," Cimatu said.

It was not clear if the military attaches would meet with the US military advisers in Zamboanga.

Military forces in the south have been battling the Abu Sayyaf Muslim rebels, a group linked to Osama bin Laden, the main suspect in the September 11 terror attacks who is hiding in Afghanistan.

Despite a massive military operation, the military have failed to recover two American hostages and several Filipino captives still being held by the Abu Sayyaf in the nearby island of Basilan.

The Abu Sayyaf has been kidnapping foreigners and Christians in the south in recent years.

Several hours before the attaches arrived, a grenade ripped through a grocery in Zamboanga, causing slight damage and no injuries. Police do not yet know if there is a connection with the visit.

Philippine Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes said in Manila that US military advisers now in the country were "in the process of coordinating our efforts at combatting terrorism, both international and domestic."

He said the Americans would be here for two weeks.

Agence France-Presse, published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer Available from http://www.inq7.net/brk/2001/oct/24/text/brkpol_6-1-p.htm 2001 www.inq7.net



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