ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AP) -- U.S. Marines and Filipino soldiers guarding a road construction site exchanged heavy gunfire with 10 suspected Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines but escaped injury, a Philippine army commander said Tuesday.
The firefight Monday on Basilan island was the first combat American forces have seen in five months of anti-terrorism training.
The comments by Philippine officials matched reports by the Pentagon on Monday that the Marines returned fire after being shot at first. Under Philippine law, U.S. troops can fire only in self-defense.
Col. Alexander Aleo said two Marine snipers and the Filipino soldiers had been assigned to guard a U.S. Navy road construction site in Maligue village.
They ran into suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels Monday and exchanged heavy gunfire for about five minutes before fighting tapered off, he said, adding that some of the attackers were believed killed. U.S. officials have also said they believe some rebels were killed, but neither group has said how many.
About 500 U.S. troops are training Philippine forces and building roads, water systems and port facilities on Basilan to help fight the rebels. The Abu Sayyaf operates in the island's dense jungle. The U.S says the group is linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.