U.S. Helicopters in Combat in the Philippines

(June 4, 2002)

On May 29, U.S. military helicopters fought with rebels in the Philippines.

Two U.S. Pave Hawk helicopters exchanged fire with a band of "suspected Abu Sayyaf Muslim guerrillas" in the southern Philippine island of Basilan, local military officials said.

The American soldiers were flying supplies into Basilan when the incident occurred late Monday, local military commander Colonel Alexander Aleo said. It was the first incident of direct combat between the U.S. troops in Basilan and suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf group.

Military reports said about 10 members of the group opened fire on the HH-60 helicopters as they were flying over the town of Tuburan, prompting the US troops aboard to return fire with the helicopters' machineguns. Immediately afterwards, Philippine soldiers on the ground were sent in pursuit, the military report said.

Over a thousand U.S. troops have been deployed in the southern Philippines in counter-insurgency operations and to provide training, and support to the Philippine army.