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US troops to fight Abu Sayyaf in Sulu

The United States is sending 750 American ground troops to the Philippines to support Filipino combat patrols fighting Muslim rebels, a Pentagon official said on Thursday. The Pentagon official said the new contingent of 350 special operations forces and 400 support personnel would begin arriving in the Philippines “in coming days” to support a Philippine-led offensive against the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas. A story by The New York Times, published in its Web site, placed the number of US troops at “more than 1,700.” “In this effort, the US soldiers will work side-by-side in an offensive effort with the Philippine military,” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There is a greater number (of US forces) that will be offshore in ships in a variety of capacities should they be needed,” the official added. The official said the American troops would be under US command and that an advance military assessment team would be arriving in the next few days to begin laying the groundwork for the operation. Full Story

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