Tuesday, June 10, 2008
The Navy has temporarily halted flights to and from the San Diego-based hospital ship Mercy after one of the vessel's helicopters took gunfire in the Philippines on Monday, Navy officials said. The Mercy has been anchored near the city of Cotabato as part of Pacific Partnership 2008, the first stop on the ship's five-country, five-month mission in the western Pacific Ocean.Medical personnel from several countries and U.S. civilian aid groups are helping the Navy. On Monday, an MH-60 Seahawk helicopter went to pick up 11 passengers about 50 miles inland, said Cmdr. Jeff Davis, a Navy spokesman. When it returned to the ship, two bullet holes were found in the tail section. No one was injured and no one heard the bullet hit the helicopter, Davis said.The aircraft is from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21, based at North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado. It's not clear who fired at the helicopter. Cotabato is in the southern Philippines' province of Mindanao, home to some communist and Islamic rebels. “It's something that we find very troubling, and we want to assess the situation before we continue,” Davis said.