President Bush and other U.S. officials reacted with grief and anger to the killing of Col. James "Nick" Rowe, the highly decorated former Vietnam prisoner of war who was shot in the Philippines by suspected communist terrorists.

At the White House, press secretary Marlin Fitzwater called the killing of Rowe "a cowardly and heinous act.""Colonel Rowe was in the Philippines to help the Filipino people in their efforts to defend democracy," Fitzwater said. "We will work closely with the Philippine government to track down and bring to justice those responsible for this assassination.

"The U.S. government's support for Philippine democracy is unshaken," said the White House spokesman.

"The president and Mrs. Bush extend their deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Colonel Rowe," said Fitzwater.

Defense Secretary Dick Cheney called Rowe "a true hero whose military career exemplified dedication to his country and to freedom."

"This cowardly act of terrorism against this brave and dedicated individual is a tragic reminder that the freedom we cherish has been obtained at great cost by those who have been willing to protect it," Cheney said.