PAGADIANCITY – Government soldiers clashed with communist rebels in the southern Filipino province of Zamboanga del Norte, an army spokeswoman said Monday.
Captain Jo-ann Petinglay said the weekend clash erupted in the village of Titik in Leon Postigo town after patrolling soldiers ran into a group of New People’s Army rebels and firefight ensued.
She said rebels also commandeered a vehicle and briefly hostage its driver who later told the military that the gunmen escaped with their casualties. “The driver who was forced by the communists to extract them away from the engagement area informed the security forces that he saw them carrying one killed communist and six wounded,” Petinglay said, adding, no soldiers were hurt from in fighting.
Petinglay said troops also recovered 3 rounds of 40 mm grenades, 15 improvised explosives and medical paraphernalia, including anti-government propaganda. She said another rebel, Allen Condez, also surrendered to the military in Guipos town in the neighboring province of Zamboanga del Sur.
She said the rebel yielded to the 53rd Infantry Battalion and is currently being interrogated. There was no immediate statement from the communist group, but last week the NPA said it captured 2 policemen PO1 Alfredo Basabica and SPO2 George Rupinta in the restive region.
It said both officers are now “prisoners of war.” Basabica was captured at a rebel checkpoint in the village of Panansialan in Compostela Valley’s Compostela town while travelling to Davao City.
Rupinta was also taken captive in the town of Lupon in Davao Oriental province. The NPA also released a video of Rupinta appealing to the government to stop the military offensives against the rebel group and resume stalled peace talks with rebels.
He also told his family that rebels were treating him fairly and that they have nothing to worry about his safety in the hands of his captors. The rebels also accused the military of murdering innocent civilians suspected of being rebels or supporters of the NPA in the provinces.
There was no immediate statement or reaction from the military or police on the capture of Basabica and Rupinta. But their arrest came just days after security officials said at least 8 rebels were dead in a firefight in Davao. Troops also recovered the bodies of the slain rebels and 6 automatic rifles and a machine gun.
Peace talks between the government and rebels stalled with the NPA accusing President Rodrigo Duterte of failing to release all political prisoners as a precondition to the signing of a ceasefire agreement. The military, on the other hand, blamed the rebels for deadly attacks despite the peace negotiations. (Mindanao Examiner)
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