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GI and Filipino Killed in Bombing

Military: A U.S. soldier is among those wounded. No group takes responsibility, but Philippine officials blame terrorists.


ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — An American soldier and at least one Filipino were killed Wednesday evening when a bomb went off in a market street frequented by U.S. and Philippine troops in this turbulent southern city.

The national police chief, Gen. Hermogenes Ebdane, blamed the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group for the attack.

The dead soldier, who was identified as an Army master sergeant, was the first member of the American military in the Philippines to die in an attack since the Pentagon sent U.S. troops to the Asian nation early this year to aid government forces fighting terrorism.

No one took responsibility for the blast, which injured an American soldier and about two dozen other people, mostly civilians.

But Ebdane said today that the rider of a motorcycle carrying the bomb was identified as a member of Abu Sayyaf, Associated Press reported.

"It was the handiwork of the terrorists, and we condemn the attack," Philippine army Col. Alexander Yapching, commander of an anti-terrorist task force, said Wednesday.

The names of the two American victims were being withheld pending notification of kin, Pentagon and U.S. Pacific Command officials in Honolulu said. The soldiers were returning from a mission and had stopped in a market area across the street from Camp Gen. Arturo Enrile in Malagutay, about two miles from the main military base of Camp Navarro, when the explosion occurred.

There were reports that a second Filipino was killed and that one of the dead was the bomber.

Philippine military spokesman Brig. Gen. Eduardo Purificacion said: "The biker stopped, then was checking his baggage when the bomb went off. The blast tore the biker into pieces. We are still trying to verify how many really died."

The U.S. soldiers involved were assigned to the Joint Special Operations Task Force, an elite group of about 270 American troops deployed in the southern Philippines.

More than 1,000 U.S. soldiers were sent here beginning in January to help train Philippine troops in anti-terrorist techniques to combat the Abu Sayyaf, a militant Islamic gang of kidnappers that the U.S. government believes is linked to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network.

The rebels kidnapped missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham of Kansas last year. He was killed during a rescue that freed her.

Most of the American soldiers were withdrawn in July. Many of those who remain are working on humanitarian and development projects on the island of Basilan, once an Abu Sayyaf stronghold.

Last week, Abu Sayyaf leader Khadafi Abubakar Janjalani contacted the Radio Mindanao Network in Manila and said his group would attack American civilian and military targets in retaliation for a continuing government offensive against the rebels.

Communist guerrillas also have been increasingly active in recent weeks and have staged bold attacks on police stations, killing at least two officers, wounding several others and seizing weapons.

Philippine officials said the explosion Wednesday evening occurred outside a karaoke bar that is owned by a former Philippine soldier. However, Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Randy Sandoz said the site of the blast was an outdoor food stand. U.S. soldiers are not allowed to drink except during a once-a-week "beer day" on base.

The two American soldiers reportedly were dining when the blast occurred just before 9 p.m.

Witnesses said the explosion blew the roofs off several nearby houses and shops.


Times staff writer Paddock reported from Jakarta, Indonesia, and special correspondent Jacinto from Zamboanga City. Times staff writer John Hendren in Washington contributed to this report.

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