Elite Australian troops join hunt terrorists in Philippines

Elite Australian troops have joined the hunt for Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists in the Philippines, newspapers reported Sunday.

Australian agents and Special Air Service Regiment troops were cooperating with Filipino soldiers in the hunt for senior terrorist figures in the Philippines, said News Ltd. papers citing an unnamed former agent with the peak spy agency Australian Security Intelligence Organization.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on Sunday would neither confirm nor deny the presence of SAS, the shadowy regiment that has spearheaded Australia's combat roles in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I'm not going to go into all the details of who they are, but there are Australian personnel in the Philippines who are providing the Philippines police and armed forces with assistance," Downer told Melbourne Radio 3AW.

"We do have some people there from ... various arms of government helping the Filipinos, and have had for quite some time," he added.

A week after terrorist bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali killed 23 people, including four Australians, attention is focusing on terrorist cells operating in the southern Philippines, reports the AP. I.L.