RP-US COUNTER-TERROR TRAINING ON SCHEDULE

Zamboanga City, Jan. 31, 2003 - More than 2,000 Filipino soldiers will be trained on anti-terrorism by American experts starting Feb. 18.

"The Feb. 18 start of the training will go on as planned. The advance US team has gone around the training site with (Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Teodocio, Armed Forces deputy chief of staff for training and education) and have finalized their assessment," Lt. Gen. Narciso Abaya, Armed Forces Southern Command chief, said.

Abaya said training will be concentrated in Zamboanga City, and not Basilan as in the last Balikatan military exercise, where troops made the Abu Sayyaf their live target.

However, Abaya said the 2,000 troops or four battalions from Sulu and Basilan will not be abruptly pulled out to avoid a vacuum in the security operation in the two provinces.

"While peace and order has normalized in Basilan, we will not thin out the strength of our forces there as we have to continue pressing the Abu Sayyaf group," he said.

American troops participating in joint war games in the country will not be allowed to get involved in any military attack against Iraq. (Star)


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