Top communist rebel leader in southern Philippines arrested

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A photo provided by the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command shows captured communist rebel leader Maria Loyda Tuzo Magpatoc.

ZAMBOANGA CITY: A top communist rebel leader in the southern Philippines was captured during a raid on Sunday by security forces in Digos City, officials said.

Maria Loyda Tuzo Magpatoc, the front secretary of the Far South Mindanao Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines, was tracked down in her hideout following a long intelligence operation.

Magpatoc heads the operations of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Mindanao.

Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz 3rd, head of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command, said Magpatoc is one of the most wanted rebel leader in the country.

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“Magpatoc will be accorded with fair trial before the court for the crimes she committed. This is how our justice system works,” Cruz said.

He said Magpatoc is responsible for the series of murders, extortion and kidnappings in Mindanao, mostly in the provinces South Cotabato, Sarangani, Davao del Sur, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, including General Santos City.

Cruz said security forces were armed with arrest warrants against Magpatoc when soldiers and police commandos swooped down on her hideout.

An intelligence report given by the army to The Manila Times said that Magpatoc also was the former Front Secretary of North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee early on 2000 and her operations covered the areas of Surigao and Agusan provinces.

She is also a member of the Executive Committee of Mindanao Commission, the main party organ of the CCP in the region.

Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, commander of the 10th Infantry Division, praised the arrest of Magpatoc and said her capture was the result not only of the continuous intelligence operations from various law enforcement agencies, but also from intelligence information provided by the communities.

“We urged the rebels and their leaders to surrender peacefully and join us in peace and development efforts instead of fighting a senseless war,” he said.

There was no immediate statement from either the CPP or the NPA, which has been fighting for decades for the establishment of a separate state in the country.

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