KIDAPAWAN CITY – Communist insurgents ambushed a military truck transporting soldiers sparking a firefight in North Cotabato’s Magpet town in southern Philippines, officials said Wednesday.
The soldiers were heading to downtown Magpet when New People’s Army rebels detonated a roadside bomb and strafed the truck. Troops engaged the ambushers in a fierce gun battle and repulsed the gunmen.
There was no report of military casualties in the Tuesday afternoon attack and it was unknown whether the rebel group suffered casualties in the fighting in Tagbac village.
The rebels were also behind the killing of Antonio Takinan, a councilman in Magpet town. Takinan was shot dead on April 4 while travelling on a motorcycle with his brother-in-law Robledo Tambunan, was wounded in the attack, but managed to escape the assassination.
Isabel Santiago, a spokeswoman for the rebel group, said Takinan was killed as a punishment for his alleged involvement in the anti-insurgency campaign and human rights violations in the province.
Santiago accused Takinan to being an intelligence agent for the military and behind forced recruitment of tribesmen to fight the NPA as government militias. She said the rebel group had ordered Takinan’s death.
She said Takinan allegedly extorted money from other tribesmen who are locked in bitter land disputes in the town. Takinan’s slaying came barely a week after rebel forces clashed with soldiers from the 39th Infantry Battalion and killing three infantrymen in nearby Digos City in retaliation to military operations dubbed as “Oplan Kapayapaan” in the towns of Arakan, Antipas, Roxas and Magpet and Makilala in North Cotabato, and the towns of Santa Cruz and Bansalan, including Digos City in Davao del Sur province.
Santiago said the military operations in those areas have targeted innocent civilians and tribesmen. “It is aimed at targeting civilian Lumad and peasants, coercing them to swear in as combatants and surrendered persons,” she said, adding, in response to the government’s anti-insurgency campaign, the NPA has been ordered to defend the masses and punish legitimate military targets, including armed and active intelligence agents hiding under the badge of civilian bureaucracy.”
The NPA has been waging decades of deadly campaign in the country for the establishment of its own Maoist government and even demanded from President Rodrigo Duterte a coalition government as one of its preconditions for the revival of the stalled peace talks last year. (Rhoderick Beñez)
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