Osama bin Laden's death should serve as a warning to all terrorists that they will be brought to justice in the relentless campaign against violent extremism, according to the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, where American troops are helping battle al-Qaida-linked militants.
Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. paid tribute Sunday to Americans and Filipinos who have perished in the battle against terrorism in a Memorial Day speech at the American cemetery in Manila. Washington will continue a decade-long anti-terrorism alliance with the Philippines, he said.
Bin Laden's death in a U.S. commando raid in Pakistan's garrison town of Abbottabad on May 2 "serves as a reminder to anyone who would use terrorism as a weapon that there will be relentless efforts to bring you to justice," Thomas said.
Thomas praised American military personnel who gave their lives for freedom and democracy from centuries ago to the current U.S.-led campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the southern Philippines, hundreds of U.S. troops have provided training, weapons and intelligence since 2002 to Filipino soldiers battling Abu Sayyaf extremists.
The Abu Sayyaf, which has been listed as a terrorist organization by Washington, has been blamed for the deaths of three American military personnel in separate attacks on southern Jolo island and Zamboanga city in the past. The militants beheaded an American tourist on southern Basilan island in 2001.
Another American was killed in an army commando rescue a year later.
"The fight against violent extremism knows no national boundaries and, today, we remember those Filipinos and Americans who have died in this battle here in the Philippines and elsewhere," Thomas said.
While hundreds of Abu Sayyaf commanders and fighters have been killed or captured in U.S.-backed Philippine offensives in past years, the group remains a key national security threat with about 400 fighters.