Military strikes rebel lair in Zambo Sur
ZAMBOANGA CITY — The military on Tuesday started a massive ground and air assault against communist rebels in the hinterlands of Dumingag town in Zamboanga del Sur province amid reports that New People’s Army (NPA) fighters had been seen gathering there.
While the Dumingag operation continued, NPA rebels disarmed two policemen at Barangay Mauswagon in Godod town, Zamboanga del Norte province, on Wednesday morning. Godod is more than 100 kilometers from Dumingag.
Chief Supt. Edwin de Ocampo, Western Mindanao regional police’s operations chief, said Senior Police Officer 1 Oscias Gomez and Police Officer 1 Rey Lismis of the Godod police were in a patrol car from Salug town when they were stopped by rebels who blocked the road at Sitio Rebe.
De Ocampo said three rifles and a handgun were taken from the policemen.
Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, commander of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said the assault and firefight in Dumingag was continuing as of Wednesday.
He, however, did not provide details of the operation or if there were casualties.
Sources from the police said an undetermined number of NPA rebels under the Western Mindanao regional party committee started massing up at Barangay Saad in Dumingag on Tuesday.
Initially, soldiers from the 53rd Infantry Battalion and the 15th Division Reconnaissance Company, and policemen from Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga del Norte provinces were sent to Dumingag to engage the rebels. The military later sent four helicopters to pound the rebels’ position.
In a statement, the NPA in Western Mindanao confirmed that it had been launching “punitive actions” against government forces in three Zamboanga provinces.
The NPA said it was responsible for a road blockade at Barangay Lungsod in Godod, where a vehicle owned by a construction company, which was allegedly being used to transport soldiers and militiamen, was seized on May 16.
It said rebels, on May 18, also set off an explosive at Kalawit town in Zamboanga del Norte, wounding several soldiers.
“The continued offensive was part of defensive efforts against military operations aimed at defeating the NPA,” the rebel group said.
Series of clashes
The assault came after a series of clashes between government troops and communist rebels in Southern Mindanao.
In Davao Oriental province, three soldiers were wounded in an hourlong firefight in Lupon town on Saturday, the police reported on Sunday.
Last week, five soldiers were also wounded in a land mine blast set off by NPA rebels at Mabini town in Compostela Valley province.
In Surigao del Sur province, three suspected rebels on board a motorcycle fired a rifle grenade launcher at the camp of the 36th Infantry Battalion on Friday. No one, however, was hurt in the attack. —With reports from Leah Agonoy, Frinston Lim and Chris Panganiban
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