ZAMBOANGA CITY: At least six policemen were injured in separate roadside bombings on Friday believed carried out by the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in North Cotabato.
Officials said the first attack occurred in the morning along the highway in Kidapawan City that wounded two policemen. Six hours later, another bomb was detonated not far away from the highway.
The twin attacks came after the Communist Party of Philippines on Wednesday ordered tactical offensives against the government in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao to address the breakout of violence in Marawi City.
The military did not issue any statement on the latest communist attacks which broke out a day after government forces killed two Abu Sayyaf militants in a firefight in Basilan that also left three pro-government militias injured.
The clash erupted in the village of Guinante in Al-Barka town, according to security officials who identified the slain militants as Nasirin Awwalin and Hasmin Lajid, followers of Abu Sayyaf leader Nurhassan Jamiri.
Meanwhile, soldiers of the 43rd Infantry Battalion led by 2nd Lt. Jermaine Gentiles encountered about 20 NPA rebels in Mahayag village, Matuguinao, Samar at about 8:30 a.m. on Friday.
But the Army’s 8th Infantry Division said no casualty was reported on both sides.
A former local government official, who asked not to be named, said people in Matuguinao town were scared of recent clashes between soldiers and the rebels.
“We heard firing of heavy artillery guns just this morning. Some people in villages fled to the town center out of fear,” she said in a text message.
In a separate incident, the Army reported that a platoon of soldiers encountered about 10 armed rebels in a remote Santa Fe village in Gen. Macarthur, Eastern Samar at about 7 a.m. triggering a five-minute firefight.
No casualty among the government troops was reported but the Army has yet to confirm any injury on the NPA side.
Align with Maute
On Friday, Capt. Eduardo Precioso Jr., information officer of the Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade, said they have confirmed the presence of the rebel faction under the Romeo Caro Platoon Bagong Hukbong Bayan in the area between Bayawan City and Santa Catalina towns in Negros Oriental.
“They are reportedly planning to spread chaos in the vicinity of Western Visayas. They will strike anytime to overrun government forces,” Precioso said.
He added the NPA group has reportedly “pledged allegiance to a faction of the Maute Group under a certain Commander Ayman Salaam Thursday in Basay City.”
Last week, Gen. Jon Aying, commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said about 10 to 20 armed NPA rebels landed in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.
He said the armed group likely came from Santa Catalina town and traveled by sea on pump boats in order to bypass Army checkpoints and patrols in the province.
The group was last seen heading to the mountainous area of the city, he added.
In a text message to The Manila Times Aying said, “a true NPA will not join forces with the ASG or the Maute. Maybe possibly as bandits.”
WITH EUGENE ADIONG AND PNA