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Fighting Terror

No combat for U.S. in Philippines

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 1, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Faced with political turmoil in the Philippines, the Pentagon Friday backed away from a plan for a joint combat offensive against Muslim rebels.

A week after defense officials announced they had an agreement to deploy more than 1,000 U.S. troops in March in an effort to rout Abu Sayyaf forces from the island of Jolo, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he didn't know how many would go, or when or what they would do.

The Pentagon's announcement of joint operations, which could draw Americans into combat, had stirred controversy in the Philippines.

The Philippines bans foreign groups from engaging in combat unless allowed by a treaty.

"We have to find an approach that will help them without violating their Constitution," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld said it was likely an end agreement "will have an intelligence component, a command and control component, a training component, some exercises, and whatever it ends up being, it will clearly be consistent with their Constitution, and it will be consistent with what we tell you we are doing."

Also . . .

HIJACKERS' REMAINS IDENTIFIED: The New York City medical examiner's office has identified remains of two of the Sept. 11 hijackers, using DNA profiles supplied by the FBI, a spokeswoman said Friday.

The remains were immediately removed from the city's Memorial Park, where unidentified and unclaimed remains are kept, according to Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the medical examiner. What will be done with the remains has not been decided.

The office does not know which of the terrorists' remains they have, because the profiles provided by the FBI did not have names attached, she said.

SANCTIONS IMPOSED ON THREE GROUPS: The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on three rebel groups in Chechnya, accusing them of terrorism and having links to al-Qaida.

The Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs, the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment and the Islamic International Brigade are blamed for seizing a Moscow theater in October and taking 800 people inside hostage.

The designations will allow the government to block the assets of the groups in U.S. financial institutions. Members would be barred from receiving visas to visit the United States.

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