• Soldiers capture 3 senior NPA leaders

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY: The Philippine military on Saturday announced the capture of three senior communist leaders in two separate operations in the restive southern region of Mindanao.

    Major Ezra Balagtey, spokesman for the Army’s Eastern Mindanao Command, said the trio is still being interrogated following their capture on Friday afternoon in Davao del Sur and in Bukidnon provinces, both known lairs of the Maoist New People’s Army.

    He said the operations, which were launched jointly with police commandos, led to the capture of Nudalo Mortejo and his wife Jasmin Badilla at the remote Sinarangan village, Matanao town, Davao del Sur. Arrested in Barangay Lumintao, Quezon town, Bukidnon province was Reboy Gandinao.

    Balagtey said Mortejo is the current commander of the NPA’s Pulang Bagani Command 8 while his wife heads the rebel group’s Regional Medical Staff of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee. He also identified Gandinao as a rebel commander and head of the NPA’s Sangay ng Partido Sa Platoon which actively operates in Bukidnon.

    “They are high-value individuals and are long wanted by military and police authorities for their involvements in many ambus-cades and other criminality. They are facing a string of murder and kidnappings charges,” Balagtey told The Manila Times.

    He said the raiding troops also seized explosives and weapons from the hideout of Mortejo and Badilla.

    Eastern Mindanao Commander Aurelio Baladad said the capture of the senior rebel leaders is a big blow to the NPA.

    Recently, government troops also clashed with NPA rebels and killed a still undetermined number of gunmen in Rojales village, Carmen town, Agusan del Norte.

    Brigadier General Jonathan Ponce, commander of the 402nd Infantry Brigade, said there were no military casualties in the fighting and that troops under the 29th Infantry Battalion recovered three M-16 automatic rifles, one AK-47 assault rifle, one Carbine rifle, one M-203 grenade launcher, two homemade guns and two .45-caliber pistols and rifle grenades, including assorted munitions.

    “The fighting was fierce and there were reports that the NPA suffered casualties and based on the weapons we have recovered there could be substantial losses on the part of the rebel group,” Ponce told The Manila Times by phone from his headquarters in the province.

    However, Communist rebels are still holding three policemen —PO3 Democrito Polvorosa, PO1 Marichel Contemplo and PO1 Junrie Amper—as prisoners of war since last year and have repeatedly demanded the pull out of troops in the neighboring Surigao del Norte province in exchange for their safe release.

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