ZAMBOANGA CITY: Two Philippine Army soldiers were killed and eight others wounded in fierce clashes with communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in a village in Zamboanga del Norte province in southern Mindanao.
Police said the fighting erupted over the weekend in Barangay Tinaplan, Sindangan town.
They added that the clashes between members of the 44th Infantry Battalion and the NPA also left a still undetermined number of casualties on the rebel side.
“The second encounter resulted in the death of two soldiers and the wounding of eight members of the Philippine Army, with an undetermined body count on the enemy side. The wounded men of the 44th Infantry Battalion were already transported via ambulance to Dipolog City for immediate medical treatment,” the police said in a report.
They added that Special Forces soldiers also clashed with about 40 rebels in Leon Postigo town earlier in the day.
“The firefight lasted for ten minutes with no soldier reported harmed or injured after which the troops were able to recover three M203 [rifle grenade]ammunition, 15 improvised explosives, medical paraphernalia and subversive documents,” the report said.
But the military’s Western Mindanao Command said a rebel was killed and that six more gunmen had been wounded in the fighting in Leon Postigo town.
It did not report the government casualties.
Army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, Army spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, said the rebels commandeered a vehicle and briefly held hostage its driver who allegedly told the military that the rebels 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 dead communist and six others wounded,” according to Petinglay.
She said no soldiers were hurt in the fighting.
Peace talks between the government and the 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 blamed the rebels for deadly attacks despite the peace negotiations.
Meanwhile, an NPA rebel reportedly surrendered to the Joint Task Force Zampelan (Zamboanga Peninsula Lanao) on Sunday.
“Allen Andoloy Condez, a.k.a. Momar, a member of the Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee, yielded to Lt. Col. Virgilio Hamos Jr., commanding officer of the 53rd Infantry Battalion, in Camp Sabido, Guipos,
Zamboanga del Sur, at 1 p.m.,” Brig. Gen. Joselito Bautista, task force commander, said.
Condez, 23, of Sergio Osmeña, Zamboanga del Norte, is reportedly listed by the military as an active NPA member.
with JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL