Friday, November 13, 2009

3 dozens killed, wounded in NPA raid; clashes in Mindanao

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / November 13, 2009) – Philippine troops mounted fresh operation against communist rebels who raided a logging firm and left at least three dozen people dead and wounded in Surigao del Sur province in Mindanao, officials said Friday.

Officials said New People’s Army rebels attacked Surigao Development Corporation late Wednesday and eventually clashed with pursuing government soldiers and policemen in the town of Lanuza.

Sporadic fighting continued Thursday that killed and wounded at least a dozen rebels, according to military intelligence reports. It was unknown whether the bodies of slain rebels were recovered by army soldiers.

At least 8 soldiers, a policeman and three of the firm’s security men were killed in the clashes. About a dozen others were wounded in the fighting, which coincided with the visit to the Philippine of US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

Major Michelle Anayron, a regional army spokesman, said the operation against the NPA is going. “There is an operation against the rebels,” he said.

Military reports said the rebels torched logging equipment before retreating to the hills. The rebels also detonated a roadside bomb that killed and wounded many soldiers.

The fighting occurred the same day the NPA has ordered the release of a captured government soldier in the volatile southern region.

A rebel spokesman Rigoberto Sanchez, of the Merardo Arce Command, said the soldier, Corporal Dominador Alegre, would be freed for humanitarian reason. Alegre was captured on November 2 after rebel forces raided an army post in the village of Casoon in Compostela Valley’s Monkayo town.

“The Merardo Arce Command-Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command of the New People’s Army has ordered the release of prisoner of war Corporal Dominador Alegre, of the 72nd Infantry Battalion for humanitarian reasons,” he said.

But Sanchez said the actual date and circumstances of release shall be decided by the NPA’s 4th Pulang Bagani Company, which is holding the soldier, because of security situation.

The NPA has accused the military of launching rescue operation that could endanger Alegre’s life. A communist rebel and soldier were killed in separate clashes in Compostela Valley.

Fighting erupted Wednesday in the town of Maragusan after patrolling soldiers encountered a group of rebels in the village of Bahi. A rebel who was wounded in the clash died before soldiers could bring him to a military hospital. A government soldier was also wounded in the fighting and three other insurgents captured, said an army brigade commander, Colonel Romeo Calizo.

A government soldier, Private Joel Quijano, was also killed late Tuesday in a failed rescue of Alegre. The Army’s 10th Infantry Division said NPA rebels are also holding another soldier, Sergeant Frederick Gayla who was captured in 2007 in Davao province.

The NPA said the delay in the safe release of Alegre is being caused by the military operation in Compostela Valley province.

“Any further delay in the safe return of Corporal Alegre to his family is being caused by the ruthless display of fascist arrogance by the 10th Infantry Division which unreasonably insists on conducting futile military rescue operations even if it achieve nothing other than trying to save face while piling up on its grim record of human rights abuses against civilians,” Sanchez said.

The rebels said government soldiers have arrested innocent civilians and harassed villagers in Monkayo town as they searched for the captured soldier.

The NPA is the armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines, which broke off peace talks with Manila in 2004 after both sides failed to sign an agreement to end more than four decades of bloody fighting. (Mindanao Examiner)

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