ZAMBOANGA CITY: New People’s Army (NPA) rebels clashed with government troops on Tuesday in Davao Oriental as security forces continued their offensive against the communist group in the restive region.
The military’s Eastern Mindanao Command said fighting erupted in Barangay New Visayas in Lupon town.
It accused the rebel group of retreating to a chapel and used civilians, including women and children, as shield against pursuing soldiers.
Rebel forces also blocked a highway, preventing motorists from passing through the village.
“We lament the NPA’s conduct of road block disturbing the economic activity of the area and the use of children and women and a chapel as part of their diversionary act against pursuing troops,” Army Maj. Ezra Balagtey, spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said.
“These condemnable acts are manifestation of the gross disregard of the NPAs of human rights, especially those of children and the elderly,” he added.
Balagtey did not say whether the civilians had been safely freed but the clashes broke out after patrolling group from the 28th Infantry Battalion (IB) ran into a huge group of rebels and a firefight ensued.
There were no immediate reports of casualties on both sides but soldiers recovered at least 14 backpacks left behind by the insurgents.
Rebel spokesman Rigoberto Sanchez said NPA forces have successfully defended base areas and guerrilla zones around the region.
Meanwhile, in Sarangani province, about 150 families fled their homes in Barangay Datal Angas in Alabel town after soldiers of the 73rd Infantry Battalion (IB) swooped down on an NPA hideout and seized high-powered firearms and ammunition.
Troops from the 73rd IB led by Lt. Col. Daryl Causancio raided the NPA lair in the mountain ranges, triggering a heavy firefight where a soldier and several rebels were wounded.
The insurgents withdrew.
Major General Rafael Valencia, Army’s 10th Infantry Division commanding general, disclosed that they had almost 18 encounters against the NPA rebels since last year, killing several of them.
The 150 families have been temporarily housed at a school compound in Alabel town.
with Jerry N. Adlaw