The U.S. Embassy in Manila on Tuesday said that the two American soldiers who were killed in a blast in Mindanao Tuesday were not involved in combat operations.A Philippines legislator says that if his idea of having the U.S. troops removed from "conflict" areas of the Philippines had been followed, no one needed to have died - see here - and that the Visiting Forces Agreement under which U.S. forces work with the Philippine military is in jeopardy:
In a statement, the embassy said the incident occurred at 8:45 a.m. while the servicemen were conducting a resupply mission for a school construction project in Jolo.
An investigation is underway to determine the details of the incident, the embassy said.
Apart from the two U.S. service members, a Philippine Marine was also killed while two other Armed Forces of the Philippines members were seriously wounded when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.
"The U.S. Embassy in Manila and the U.S. members of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines express deepest sympathy and condolences to the families and loved ones of the killed and wounded Philippine and U.S. soldiers," the embassy statement said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs backed the embassy's statement, saying the American troops died while doing civic and humanitarian work.
"It is with sadness that we learned of the death of a Philippine Marine and two US servicemen. What they were doing in Sulu--assisting Philippine military and local government officials in undertaking civic engineering projects, protecting families and securing peace---are important to the Filipino people," a department statement said. "Our prayers and sympathies go out to their families and loved ones."<
Biazon today told MindaNews that he had advised the US Embassy and the Philippine contingent, especially the VFA Oversight Committee’s Edilberto Adan, that “the worst thing that can happen is if an American troop is killed in the combat areas. We will have a lot of doing to save the visiting forces agreement and so, therefore, I said, ‘be careful.’”
He said that when the Americans shooting at the pier in Jolo happened, “my worst fear was no longer an American getting killed in combat areas but an American killing a Filipino, whether bandit or law-abiding citizen.”
“So here, my first fear (American soldiers getting killed) has already happened,” he said.
“Kung sinunod, wala na sanang (napatay) [if his appeal had been followed, no one would have been killed], said Biazon, former Armed Forces Chief of Staff.
“This incident (Sept. 29) plus the incident in Jolo pier (on the September 14 shooting) are strengthening sectors calling for abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement,” he said.
According to this NYTimes report, the U.S. servicemen killed were actually sailors - U.S. Navy Seabees:
Two American sailors and a Filipino marine were killed Tuesday when their vehicle struck a landmine on the troubled southern island of Jolo, the Philippine military said.
Two Filipino marines also were injured in the blast, according to the army spokesman, Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner. The explosion occurred near the town of Indanan, the scene of recent fighting between government forces and Islamist militants.
Colonel Brawner said the American troops were Navy Seabees who were not in a combat role but were helping supervise a school-building project on the island.
“They lost their lives serving others, and we will always be grateful for their contributions to improve the quality of life on Jolo,” the U.S. ambassador, Kristie Kenny, said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. The names of the dead sailors were not immediately released.