- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2009

MANILA (AP) | Two U.S. Navy construction Seabees and a Philippine marine were killed Tuesday in a roadside blast in the southern Philippines that officials said was likely an attack by suspected al Qaeda-linked militants.

It was believed to be just the second time U.S. servicemen have been killed in the southern Philippines in violence blamed on the Abu Sayyaf group since U.S. counterterrorism troops were deployed to the region in 2002, and the first fatalities in seven years.

One Philippine marine also was killed and two others were wounded in the blast on Jolo island, a poor, predominantly Muslim region where the Americans have been providing combat training and weapons to Philippine troops battling the Abu Sayyaf.

Philippine officials described the blast as being caused by a land mine, a description normally used for military-grade weapons. The U.S. Embassy said it was an improvised explosive device.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner said a Philippine military convoy joined by U.S. troops was on its way to Kagay village in Jolo’s Indanan township where troops were building two school buildings and digging artesian wells when the land mine exploded.

One U.S. serviceman died at the scene, while another who was critically wounded in the blast died a short time later, Col. Brawner told the Associated Press.

They were from the Naval Construction Battalions, or Seabees, which gather skilled craftsmen like electricians and carpenters into special military units.

“They were not in combat,” Col. Brawner said. “These U.S. soldiers were there in the area to supervise the developmental projects in Indanan.”

In a statement, the U.S. Embassy said the deaths happened when the victims’ vehicle struck an improvised explosive device about 8:45 a.m. during a resupply mission for the school construction project.

The servicemen were not identified pending notification of next of kin.

In October 2002, a U.S. Green Beret was killed along with two Filipinos when a bomb loaded with nails exploded outside a cafe in Zamboanga city.

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