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U.S. Serviceman Missing

June 5, 2001

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ A U.S. serviceman was missing Tuesday after he and four other American military personnel encountered gunfire from suspected communist guerrillas on the slopes of Mount Pinatubo, officials said.

The Americans were accompanied by four armed Filipino soldiers and a guide while visiting the popular tourist attraction in the northern Philippines, said Elmer Cato, a spokesman for U.S.-Filipino military exercises.

Suspected New People’s Army guerrillas opened fire when they saw the group, said Cato, adding that the attackers probably mistook the American servicemen for tourists. They were dressed in street clothes.

No one was injured, but ``one of the U.S personnel made a run for it,″ Cato told The Associated Press. ``He is now the subject of a search.″

Cato said the American servicemen was likely not kidnapped and he did not think the suspected rebels were staging an ambush or shooting directly at the group.

``If it was an ambush, there would have been casualties,″ he said.

The New People’s Army, currently engaged in peace talks with the government, is fighting a Marxist insurgency throughout the Philippines.

Police Supt. Napoleon de los Santos said the Philippine police, army and U.S. military staff were searching for the missing man. Two M-16 rifles were missing from the Filipino guards in the confusion.

Filipino and U.S. forces are conducting joint exercises in the Philippines’ Subic Bay. About 3,000 troops from both sides are participating in the 11-day exercise that began last Friday.

Cato said it was unlikely the incident was related to a hostage crisis in the southern Philippines, where Abu Sayyaf Muslim rebels are holding an estimated 20 captives, including three Americans, on Basilan island.

``We believe this was totally unrelated to Mindanao,″ he said, referring to the impoverished homeland of Muslim Filipinos about 560 miles south of Manila. ``It was most likely an isolated incident.″

The nine men who escaped the attack safely returned to Clark Airfield in Pampanga province, Cato said.

U.S. officials were not releasing the name of the missing serviceman.

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