Dozens slain in clashes between soldiers, rebels
MAKILALA, North Cotabato— Hostilities between government soldiers and communist rebels erupted one after another in Mindanao, with at least seven clashes recorded starting Tuesday this week alone.
The clashes that resulted in injuries or deaths to more than a dozen combatants from both sides as of Saturday were the continuation of the violence involving security forces and the rebels, which started as soon as the truce declared by the government and the communists ended on Jan. 15, and amid uncertainties on the resumption of the stalled peace talks.
The latest incident this week was an explosion triggered by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in a remote area of Barangay Kisante here on Friday evening.
Lt. Nasrullah Sema, civil-military operations commander of the 57th Infantry Battalion (IB), said five soldiers and two civilians were injured in the 11 p.m. explosion that caught a military truck returning to the Army unit’s headquarters.
Sema said the civilians, whom he did not identify, were sitting outside their houses near the road in Sitio Alang-alang when the explosion took place.
He identified the wounded soldiers as Corporals Mohammad Nur Sali and Hassan Sarip; Privates Michael Purol and Vincent Sumug-oy; and Pfc. Allan Urop, who remains in critical condition at a Davao City hospital due to the severity of the shrapnel wounds he suffered.
“They planted the explosive near populated areas so civilians were hit,” Sema said.
He said the land mine attack was in retaliation to the “heavy losses” the NPA suffered in an earlier encounter here, in reference to Tuesday’s clash near the province’s border with Davao del Sur where four rebels were killed.
A soldier was also killed while another one was wounded in the said clash, according to Lt. Col. Noel dela Cruz, the 57th IB commander.
Dela Cruz said the military had fired artillery rounds against the fleeing rebels and believed several rebels were hit in the explosions.
Also on Tuesday, a rebel spokesperson said a soldier was hit when an NPA sniper fired on elements of the 84th IB, who were patrolling a remote area of Barangay Tawan-tawan in Baguio district in Davao City.
The claim by Simon Santiago, a rebel spokesperson, could not be independently verified as the military had not issued any statement about it.
Santiago’s statement did not indicate the fate of the soldier.
He also accused soldiers of using a tribal leader as human shield in their alleged bid to deter further attacks.
Santiago said the Davao City incident was among “the many region-wide punitive actions” the NPA had launched in Southern Mindanao the past days as the military “has been raring to start full-scale offensive against the [NPA].”
He said days before the ceasefire unilaterally declared by both the government and the CPP had expired, the military had already deployed soldiers to Baguio district and had prepared for a major offensive.
Still on Tuesday, a soldier died and 13 others were injured when a land mine explosion NPA rebels had set off hit a military vehicle in Lupon, Davao Oriental, according to Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, spokesperson of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.
He said the slain soldier, Pfc. Jhassam Diaz, was initially wounded along with the other soldiers but he succumbed to shrapnel wounds while being transported to a government hospital in Tagum City.
Paniza said soldiers from the 28th IB were traveling in a convoy as they headed back to their headquarters in Lupon proper after assisting in the relief operations for flood victims when the explosion took place.
He said the attack was “a clear manifestation of the NPA’s disrespect for international humanitarian law.”
The Lupon attack came a day after soldiers, who were on a search and rescue operation for another soldier and a policeman abducted by NPA rebels last week, twice clashed with communist guerrillas in Laak, Compostela Valley.
Paniza did not provide additional details on the Laak clash.
A day after Tuesday’s series of fire fights, soldiers belonging to the 4th Scout Ranger Battalion also engaged NPA rebels in a heavy gun battle in Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur.
The military’s Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) based in Zamboanga City reported that three rebels were killed in Wednesday’s encounter that took place in Barangay Mati of the said town around 2:45 p.m.
Three firearms were also recovered, but three soldiers were wounded, the Westmincom said.
In Surigao del Sur, an undetermined number of NPA rebels harassed a patrol base of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) in Sitio Greenfield, Sta. Juana village, Tagbina town on Saturday, leaving a militiaman wounded,
Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said in a statement Sunday.
The attack also resulted in casualties on the NPA side, according to residents who had seen the fleeing rebels dragging their wounded comrades after a brief fire fight with the militiaman defending the patrol base, said Lt. Julito Borces, civil military operations chief of the Army’s 75th IB.
“Prior to the harassment, residents said armed men were conducting extortion activities in their community,” said Borces, adding troops were now conducting pursuit operations against the rebels.
Barely a day before, alleged NPA rebels had executed an off-duty Cafgu member in Sta. Josefa town, in Agusan del Sur.
Four men armed took 44-year-old Danilo Bacudan to a forested area in Awao village and shot him dead there past 2 p.m. on Friday, said Supt. Martin Gamba, spokesperson of Caraga police regional office.
The victim, a member of the 16th Cafgu Active Auxiliary under Charlie Company of the Army’s 23rd IB, was having a drinking session with relatives outside his house when he was taken at gunpoint, Gamba said.
“He reportedly tried to escape,” said Gamba. The victim suffered bullet wounds in the head and leg.
Gamba said investigators had recovered empty shells and deformed slugs from bullets of
AK-47 rifle and .45 cal. pistol at the site of incident. Reports from Edwin Fernandez, Julie Alipala, Carlo Agamon, Ayan Mellejor, Frinston Lim and Karlos Manlupig, Inquirer Mindanao
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