• Rebels seize villagers in Compostella Valley

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY: The military on Sunday said communist rebels are holding at least a dozen civilians on a village in the southern Compostela Valley province where insurgents earlier released 26 people.

    Capt. Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said New People’s Army rebels were using the civilians as shield against pursuing soldiers in the village of Panamin in Mabini town.

    He said the rebels have freed the 26 villagers at dawn Sunday, but the gunmen are still holding 12 civilians although negotiations were going on for their safe release.

    “Twenty-six of the 39 civilians being held by rebels have been freed. They have been assisted by government troops,” he said, adding those freed were taken to the village of Mahayahay in the neighboring town of Maragusan.

    Caber said troops were in the area to secure the villages against the NPA, which has been fighting for decades now for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country.

    “This is the worst action of the NPA—to take innocent civilians as hostage and use them as human shield against security forces,” he said in a telephone interview from his headquarters while monitoring the tense situation in the area.

    Caber said the rebels took hostages on Saturday after troops arrived in the village following a tipoff from civilians that rebels are in the area.

    “We have received information from civilians about the presence of rebels so we dispatched troops to verify this, but soon as they arrived the NPA has already gathered innocent villagers and held them at gunpoint,” he said.

    He said local government officials are currently negotiating with the rebels to free the remaining hostages.

    “We are there, but the order is to allow peaceful negotiations and we are waiting for rebels to free the remaining victims and from that let’s see what happens next. The lives of the civilians are most important to us,” he said.

    There was no immediate statement from the NPA about the situation in the town.

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