AFP. 31 January 2002. Communist rebels may have fired on US plane in
Philippines: official.

MANILA -- Communist insurgents may have fired upon a US special forces
aircraft in the northern Philippines, local military sources said Friday
after the Pentagon revealed one of its planes had been hit by small-arms

A military source, who asked not to be identified, said the shooting
took place in the northern province of Abra where communist New People's
Army (NPA) guerrillas are known to be active.

"It was in Abra and you know there are NPA over there," the source told

However military officials stressed they were still investigating the
incident and trying to determine precisely when and where the shooting
occured and what type of firearm was used.

Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis announced in Washington that a US Air
Force MC-130 came under fire Thursday while conducting a low-level
training mission in a mountainous area on the island of Luzon.

The aircraft, which was hit by at least two bullets, returned safely to
Clark Air Base in the northern Philippines and no one was injured in the
incident, Davis said.

The aircraft was taking part in "Balance Piston," a joint US-Philippine
military exercise in the north of the country, focusing on

The shooting cast a cloud over larger joint US-Philippine military
operations in the south where American soldiers are training local
troops to hunt down the Abu Sayyaf Muslim kidnapping group that
allegedly has links with the al-Qaeda network of terror mastermind Osama
bin Laden.

Communist insurgents in the Philippines had previously threatened to
attack any American soldiers who enter their so-called territories
during the joint operations with local troops.

The NPA are active in the northern Philippines but generally do not
operate in the areas of the southern Philippines where Muslim guerrillas
are present.

Communist rebels had also originally been suspected of killing an
American trekker and wounding his German friend in an ambush near
Pinatubo volcano in the northern Philippines on Wednesday.

[N.B.] However, police later said there were conflicting accounts that
the shooting may have been carried out by a local tribesman with a
home-made rifle for reasons that remain unclear.

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Barry Stoller

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