• Top NDF official slain in Bicol clash

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    LEGAZPI CITY: A top official of the National Democratic Front (NDF) was among those killed when soldiers and communist rebels clashed in Bicol on Thursday.

    Eight rebels were slain in the 35-minute gunbattle in Juban town in Sorsogon province. One of the fatalities was later identified as Gregorio “Ka Greg” Bañares, NDF secretary general and concurrent spokesman of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the region. Bañares’ real name is Frankie Joe Soriano.

    The NPA’s Celso Minguez Command admitted in a statement that Ka Greg was one of the casualties.

    However, Army Col. Joselito Kakilala was reluctant to confirm the report.

    “We could not confirm yet as of the moment if Ka Greg is one of the casualties in the military encounter but as far as we know there’s a top NDF official,” Kakilala said.

    Army troopers brought the bodies of the slain rebels to the Juban police station for identification.

    Kakilala, commanding officer of the 903rd Infantry Brigade, said Army troops led by Lt. Alfie Ayo engaged 30 heavily-armed rebels in a firefight early on July 4. The clash occurred five meters away from the rebel camp where his men seized five M16 rifles, two M203 grenade launchers and one improvised explosive device. The military suffered no casualties.

    In Zamboange del Sur province, a soldier was killed in an ambush by communist rebels in Guipos town, a military spokesman said Saturday.

    Captain Jefferson Somera said Corporal Danilo Saavedra and Private First Class Rommel Taneo were returning to their headquarters on a motorcycle when NPA rebels attacked them in the village of Magting.

    He said Saavedra was hit in the back and managed to return fire, but he eventually died from his wound. Taneo defended his position until reinforcement arrived.

    Somera said the soldiers were part of the so-called “peace and development” team engaged in community and humanitarian projects in the town.

    Brigadier General Felicito Virgilio Trinidad, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, condemned the killing of the soldier.

    With a report from Al Jacinto

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