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Tuesday, Oct 14, 2014

Asia

Philippines probes transgender death after US 'war games'

AFP | Tuesday, Oct 14, 2014

Philippine and US marines take their positions during the annual joint naval exercise dubbed "Phiblex" at an island near the south China sea in Puerto Princesa, Palawan island on Oct 2, 2014. Philippine authorities are investigating the possible involvement of a US soldier in the killing of a local transgender person after the two nations held joint military exercises, Filipino authorities said on Monday.

MANILA - Philippine authorities are investigating the possible involvement of a US soldier in the killing of a local transgender person after the two nations held joint military exercises, Filipino authorities said on Monday.

The US embassy in Manila confirmed an American serviceman was "identified as a possible suspect" in Sunday's killing at a hotel in the northern city of Olongapo.

"The United States will continue to fully cooperate with Philippine law enforcement authorities in every aspect of the investigation," a US embassy statement said without giving further details.

The body of Jeffrey Laude was found by hotel staff late Sunday, less than an hour after the victim checked into a room with an unidentified male suspect.

The "foreigner" with Laude had blonde, close-cropped hair, was of medium build, and "casually" walked out of the hotel later without settling his bill, prompting hotel staff to check the room, police investigator Mary Ann Sadaba told AFP.

They found Laude, who was dressed as a woman, lifeless on the bathroom floor with marks on the neck, she added.

The injuries suggest the victim was strangled but further investigation is required, Sadaba said.

"The foreigner is a suspect because he was the last person seen with the victim," she said.

Eduardo Oban, an adviser to Philippine President Benigno Aquino, told reporters the US troops who took part in the Sept 29-Oct 10 amphibious exercises have been ordered to remain in the country amid the investigation.

"The (US Pacific Commander) ordered that no US ships will leave the Philippines until we are done with the investigation," said Oban, executive director of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement.

About 3,500 US Marines and navymen took part in the joint exercises held in several areas of the Philippines, including training sites near Olongapo.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario discussed the murder with US embassy officials in Manila on Monday, he told reporters.

"I think we will have a very close cooperation in making sure that justice is served," he added.

In 2006, a Philippine court sentenced US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith to 40 years in jail for raping a Filipina a year earlier.

Smith walked free in 2009 after his accuser recanted her statement, prompting the court to acquit him.

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