Monday, June 26, 2006

Troops Capture MIndanao NPA Base, Seize Explosives

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 26 Jun) Government forces occupied a huge jungle encampment of the New People's Army (NPA) in the southern Philippines after fierce fighting that left one soldier dead and at least a dozen soldiers wounded and a still undetermined number of communist rebels, officials said Monday.

Officials said troops also recovered 120 sticks of dynamites and anti-government propaganda inside the camp in the mountain village of Busdi in Malaybalay City after weeklong clashes that began June 18. "Troops have occupied the enemy camp and recovered the explosives. We are clearing the area," Capt. Jose Ritche Pabilonia, spokesperson of the Southern Command, told reporters.

He said the NPA base has 164 bunkers and used by rebels for training.

Lt. Col. Francisco Simbajon, of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, described the rebel camp as heavily fortified and surrounded by dangerous terrain. He said military helicopters were used to flush out the rebels. "The enemy camp is well fortified so we have sent more soldiers, backed by aircrafts, in the area to neutralize the NPA forces," he told the Zamboanga Journal.

Fighting in the countryside have escalated after peace talks between communist rebels and the government collapsed in 2004 after the Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front pulled out from the negotiations because of its inclusion to the terror lists of the United States and the European Union on Manila's prodding.

Rebels demanded that President Gloria Arroyo asks the United States and the European Union to strike them off from the terror lists before they resume peace talks. Manila rejected the demand and suspended safety and immunity guarantee for rebel peace negotiators following the collapse of the talks.

President Arroyo has ordered the military to crush the NPA, the armed wing of the CPP-NDF, and set aside one billion pesos for the military to help fight insurgency and terrorism.

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