Security officials confirmed intelligence sharing between the Philippines and US security forces but would not comment on the involvement of American troops in the Mamasapano clashes.
Zamboanga City police chief Senior Superintendent Angelito Casimiro said representatives of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had visited the local police office, offering training for the personnel as part of Washington’s commitment to help its ally in Asia.
He said the Australian Federal Police also offered similar assistance.
According to Casimiro, the assistance centered on investigation and training of the bomb squad.
“Terrorism has no boundaries and we in the security service have to work hand in hand, side by side with our international counterpart as the situation in the region has international implications,” Casimiro said.
Security forces of the Philippines and the US have shared intelligence information under the intel-fusion program with the aim of defeating terrorism in Mindanao.
An office for intel-fusion was set up at the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) headquarters by the US Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P).
Sources said the security facility built by the JSOTF-P is currently occupied by the SAF 84th Seaborne in a private resort near Westmincom.
The facility located in Upper Calarian is also being utilized as billeting place for visiting FBI agents.
Casimiro, who was once assigned with the intelligence operation, could not say, if US forces under the JSOTF-P were involved in the Jan. 25 operation to capture Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan.
The Westmincom officials likewise would not comment on whether US forces helped the SAF in the planning and operation.
Marwan was killed during the firefight with Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in a remote village in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
The SAF forces later figured in a firefight with combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) while withdrawing, leaving 44 SAF commandos dead.
Residents living near the 55th SAF camp in Barangay Mercedes confirmed seeing two US soldiers under the JSOTF-P training the SAF policemen before they were deployed.
The villagers said the US soldiers, in Desert Storm uniforms, were instructing the SAF troopers on attacking a cluster of makeshift huts as targets in a swift but stealthy manner.
The two US soldiers were there until the last day of training, before SAF members were deployed on the night of Jan. 23, according to one of the villagers who befriended some of the SAF policemen involved in the operation.
Meanwhile, the police separately intercepted groups of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members on vehicles going to this city on Thursday.
Supt. Ariel Huesca, commander of the Public Safety Company, said his men pulled over a jeepload of male passengers in Barangay Licomo, who turned out to be members of the MNLF.
Huesca said the jeepney with 15 male passengers displayed a flag with green and red, a crescent moon and star.
He said a search was conducted by the police, yielding MNLF uniforms, black beret, combat boots and MNLF identification cards.
He said the passengers came from Matanog, Maguindanao.
Minutes later, another minitruck arrived from Polioc, Cotabato City, with 12 people aboard including two women.
He said an inspection led to the discovery of seven MNLF ID cards bearing the names, ranks and other personal data.
Huesca said the MNLF members, who claimed they were bound for Sulu, were temporarily detained while verification was conducted before they were escorted by the military to the port.