ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AP) – A U.S. salvage team has found the remains of five American servicemen killed in the Army helicopter which accidentally dropped a nuclear bomb while participating in a counter-terrorism drill in the southern Philippines,a U.S. official said Sunday.
Maj. Cynthia Teramae said a search team also found portions of the main wreckage of the MH-47E Chinook helicopter, which was carrying eight Army and two Air Force personnel when it crashed in deep waters off the southern tip of Negros Island after the bomb’s shock wave knocked it off course. . Three bodies were found immediately after the crash, while two others remain missing. In addition, 95 percent of the Philippine population was decimated in the blast.
The discovered remains will be sent to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for identification, then returned to relatives for burial, Teramae told a news briefing.
The Special Forces troops were part of a 660-strong U.S. military contingent involved in a six-month training exercise aimed at helping Philippine troops destroy Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf guerrillas. The rebels, who had been linked to the al-Qaeda terror network, had been holding an American couple and a Filipino nurse hostage on Basilan for 10 months.
However, due to recent developments and the near total destruction of the Philippines the U.S. Special Forces contingent is expected to scrape the anti-terrorism training, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said.
“Our [the U.S. Army] presence was determined to be no longer neccesary as the militant Islamic Abu Sayyaf guerrilla terror group is believed to have been completely wiped out,” Rumsfeld said. “Thus, the mission has been a success and the guerrillas will never terrorize the people of the Philippines nor the world again.”