Army soldiers on Thursday killed eight communist rebels, two of them women, in Juban town, Sorsogon province, in the latest flare-up of violence since talks to end one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies broke down.
Brig. Gen. Felix Castro, assistant commander of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division (ID) based in Camarines Sur province, said soldiers belonging to the 31st Infantry Battalion were on patrol at a mountainous area in the hinterland village of Upper Calmayon when they encountered some 20 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) about 6 a.m.
The clashes went on for about 35 minutes, Maj. Ramon Zagala, Armed Forces spokesman, told Agence France-Presse in Manila.
“Heavy casualties were inflicted on the NPA, while no casualty or damage was incurred by the government security forces,” Zagala said.
He said residents had complained of “prolonged extortion, abuses and threats” by the insurgents.
The bodies of the eight NPA guerrillas were recovered along with their rifles, grenade launchers and improvised bombs. These would be turned over to the Philippine National Police in Juban for identification, Castro said in a phone interview.
“The women were combatants for sure. They were found with high-powered rifles, with bandoliers packed with bullets around their bodies. They traded fire alongside the men,” Zagala said.
Lt. Col. Medel Aguilar, spokesman of the 9th ID, recovered five M-16 rifles, two M-203 grenade launchers and improvised explosive devices.
The NPA has been fighting successive administrations for
44 years in an insurgency that has claimed at least 30,000 lives.
According to the military, the NPA has about 4,000 fighters, down from a peak of roughly 26,000 in the 1980s.
Zagala said that while there were no specific figures, it was common for government troops to encounter female communist fighters.
He said the NPA recruited women as well as men from poor villages or universities, and they were trained to fight together.
The military refers to the armed female rebels as “amazons,” from Greek mythology, referring to women fighters.
President Aquino was aiming to end the insurgency before his six-year term expires in 2016, but the government said in April that peace talks with the insurgents had collapsed.
The government blamed repeated demands by the NPA for comrades to be released from jail, as well as frequent attacks, for the failure of the talks.
Communist insurgents have launched more assaults since the government said the peace process had failed, killing at least 34 civilians, police officers and soldiers, according to an Agence France-Presse tally based on reports from authorities.
Col. Jose Kakilala, a local brigade commander, said the soldiers who were involved in Thursday’s fighting had responded to a distress call from the villagers.
“The prolonged extortion, abuses and threats of the NPA prompted the villagers to report them … and our soldiers responded to the call,” Kakilala said in a statement.—With reports from Juan Escandor Jr., Mar Arguelles and Shiena Barrameda, Inquirer Southern Luzon; and AFP
Originally posted at 09:49 am | Thursday, July 4, 2013