US legislators call for more aid to strife-torn southern Philippines
() - August 25, 2007 - 3:38pm

ZAMBOANGA (AFP) - American congressmen said Saturday they would seek more US aid to bolster the Philippines in its fight against terror groups following a visit to this strife-torn region.

The five-member, bilateral delegation, led by Congressman Silvestre Reyes met with US troops stationed here to help train local forces battling Muslim extremists with ties to the al-Qaeda terror network.

They also met with Filipino military commanders and local officials and were briefed on the security situation in the region where Filipino soldiers are still in pursuit of Muslim extremist gunmen.

Asked about possible US cuts to its military aid to the Philippines, Congressman Reyes said that "if anything, we recommend that we expand the assistance and the support."

"We are proud of the work being done here and more than that, we know that it's an important part of the global effort that we need to make in protecting our allies and protecting the vital regions of the world, he said."

"We are prepared to provide any assistance possible because we think a safe and secured Asian region, certainly the Philippines is part of this, is in the best interests of everyone," Reyes added.

The arrival of the American legislators comes just four days after a bomb, believed planted by the Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremist group, exploded in a square in Zamboanga City, injuring 14 people.

The delegation also expressed sympathy for scores of soldiers who have been killed in recent weeks in an upsurge of fighting with the Abu Sayyaf and their allies in the islands of Jolo and Basilan, just south of Zamboanga City.

Congressmen Gregory Meeks praised Philippine-US links, saying the visit showed that "we have much more in common that brings us together."

The poorly-equipped Philippine military has been hoping to receive more assistance from the United States in the face of increased conflict with Muslim extremists. The Abu Sayyaf has been linked by both the US and Philippine intelligence agencies to al-Qaeda.

ABU SAYYAF ABU SAYYAF MUSLIM CONGRESSMAN REYES CONGRESSMAN SILVESTRE REYES CONGRESSMEN GREGORY MEEKS JOLO AND BASILAN QAEDA REYES UNITED STATES ZAMBOANGA CITY
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