11 U.S., AUSTRALIAN EXPERTS HERE FOR DAVAO BLAST PROBE  

Manila, March 12, 2003 -- Eleven bomb experts from the United States and Australia have arrived in Davao City to help a joint military-police task force in the forensic investigation of the March 4 bombing at the Davao International Airport that killed 21 people and wounded at least 160 others.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. confirmed that the team of forensic experts consisted of seven agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and four experts from the Australian Federal Police.

"We are still the supervising agency. They will just assist us," Ebdane said, confirming reports that the visit of the Australian policemen was the offshoot of Manila's recently signed counter-terrorism pact with Canberra.

At the same time, however, PNP director for community relations Director Ricardo de Leon said the PNP did not request any assistance although it welcomed all the help it could get in the fight against terrorism.

"We welcome any offer of assistance but we have not made any request," De Leon said, quelling speculations the PNP sought foreign help because it could not handle the bombing probe. (By Christina Mendez and Edith Regalado, Star)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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