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2 civilians hurt, hundreds flee from Army-NPA clash in Compostela Valley

TAGUM CITY, Davao del Norte–Two civilians were wounded while hundreds fled from fighting between government troops and suspected communist rebels in Monkayo, Compostela Valley, past Tuesday noon, military and police officials said.

Lt. Col. Michele Anayron, commander of the Army’s 25th Infantry Battalion, said the fighting erupted as troops of the Alpha Company under a certain Lieutenant Lamberto on combat patrol chanced upon some 40 heavily armed New People’s Army guerrillas at Sitio (sub-village) Totoy, Haguimitan village around 12:45 p.m., sparking a 25-minute gun battle.

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“Residents have alerted our troops about armed men who have been massing in their village as early as yesterday (Monday),” Anayron told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.

“(Military) operations were ongoing. A female civilian was injured and brought to the municipal health center,” SPO4 Setchuan Te, Monkayo police investigator, told Inquirer by text message.

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Te could not ascertain, though, if the civilian was wounded in the crossfire.

Joan Pintal, municipal information officer, said Rosalia Andaya, 62, and Marcelin Domecilla, 10, were wounded when an improvised landmine exploded. They were undergoing treatment at Davao Regional Hospital here, she said.

At least 127 families, or 518 persons, from two communities in Haguimitan and adjacent San Jose village fled their homes due to fear of being caught in the clash, according to Pintal.

“We convened our incident management team to address the (needs of the) evacuees,” Pintal told Inquirer by mobile phone.

Anayron said no one among the troops was hurt even as clearing operation continued to determine if there were NPA casualties.

The military official surmised the rebels, said to be from Guerrilla Front 3 under a certain Lope and the NPA strike group, Pulang Bagani Company (PBC) 4, led by a certain Ronnie, were consolidating for a major tactical offensive or attack on undetermined targets.

Three firearms—M16, M14 and AK47 assault rifles—as well as an improvised explosive device, a handheld radio, a Honda TMX motorcycle and personal belongings were recovered at the encounter site.

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Earlier in the day, soldiers from the Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion also clashed with suspected communist guerrillas in New Bataan town, also in Compostela Valley. Two communications equipment, ammunition pouches, an improvised bomb, personal belongings and “subversive documents” were recovered, said Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., spokesman of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command.

Military and police have been placed on high alert in Southern Mindanao against possible NPA attacks in the run-up to the armed group’s 46th anniversary on March 29.

Lt. General Aurelio Baladad, Eastern Mindanao Command chief, said operations would continue against the NPA even in their strongholds “in order to prevent them from intimidating the communities and launching more offensives in an apparent move to accumulate tactical gains, in preparation for their anniversary.”

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TAGS: 25th Infantry Battalion, Armed conflict, Aurelio Baladad, Barangay Haguimitan, civilian casualties, civilians caught in cross fire, clash, communist rebellion, Compostela Valley, Eastern Mindanao Command, Encounter, Evacuation, gun battle, Insurgency, Joan Pintal, Marcelin Domecilla, Michele Anayron, Military, Monkayo, Monkayo Municipal Police, New People's Army, News, Philippine Army, Police, police investigation, rebellion, Regions, Romeo Brawner Jr., Rosalia Andaya, Setchuan Te, Sitio Totoy
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