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American soldier died with SAF 44? US embassy denies report

US ASSISTANCE: An injured police commando (on stretcher) waits to be loaded onto a waiting US military helicopter.

All photos by Mark Navales/AFP

MANILA, Philippines – The US embassy in Manila denied a report by a human rights group that an American soldier was among those killed in the bloody clash between the police Special Action Force (SAF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) 105th Base Command last week, January 25.

"There were no US service member casualties," US Embassy spokesman Kurt Hoyer said in a text response to Rappler Sunday, February 1.

The US embassy spokesman said the US only helped in evacuating the casualties. "At the request of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), US service members serving in JSOTF-P responded to assist in the evacuation of casualties after the firefight in Maguindanao," Hoyer said.

The Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines (JSOTF-P) is a US military unit that is helping the Philippine military respond to threats of violent extremist organizations. It is under the Hawaii-based US Pacific Command. It has temporary facilities in Camp Siongco in Maguindanao, Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City, and Camp Bautista in Sulu. (READ: What is EDCA? Look at Zambo's PH-US joint operations)

Witness touched his nose

The group Suara Bangsamoro is citing the account of a farmer in Mamasapano who claimed that he saw the body of a "blue-eyed foreigner" after the fierce firefight inside barangay Tukanalipao, the site of the bloodbath.

Forty-four of the elite cops and 17 MILF fighters were reported killed and many others wounded in the firefight that started at the break of dawn and lasted until early afternoon. Civilians wer also killed in the crossfire.

“Our source was among the residents who went at the scene of encounter after the rebels withdrew,” said Suara Bangsamoro national spokesperson Amirah Ali Lidasa.

“He described to us the slain soldier having blue-eyes. He even touched the nose of the slain trooper,” she added.

The SAF troopers entered the MILF area to arrest top Jemaah Islamiyah Zulkifli Abdhir or "Marwan."  The Malaysian bombmaker has a US$5 million bounty on his head.

Marwan was reportedly killed in the SAF operation. The government is awaiting confirmation after DNA tests.

The firefight ensued as the SAF troopers were withdrawing from the site. – Rappler.com