Filipino politics complicate war on terror

MANILA, Philippines, Oct. 17 (UPI) — Claims of covert joint U.S.-Australian-Filipino Special Forces operations against guerrillas has set off a political row in Manila.

The Australian newspaper reported from Manila Monday that the involvement of personnel from Australia’s elite Special Air Services unit has raised questions in the Philippine parliament about the foreign troops “illegally” tracking terrorists in the country’s southern islands.

The revelations and subsequent political uproar come as Austrlaia and the Philippines are close to concluding a bilateral Australian-Filipino defense treaty that would increase counter-terrorism cooperation between the two nations.

The Philippines’ constitution prohibits foreign military forces from participating in direct military operations in the country.

The Weekend Australian reported that about 100 U.S. Special Forces personnel, including Green Berets, Navy SEALs and CIA counter-terrorism specialists, participated in the operation alongside the Australian SAS team of 20 soldiers, together with personnel from the Philippines’ armed forces.

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Major General Jose Honrado denied the reports, saying: “We are not aware of any soldiers from the Australian Defense Forces in the Philippines, especially in direct operations against terrorists. Our constitution prohibits foreign troops from engaging in direction operations. Even the American soldiers are not allowed to do that. We deny this story. It didn’t come from the Philippines.”

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