In a press statement issued today, the NPA called the attack part of a series of "tactical offensives" against the Army which it accused of wreaking "havoc" in many areas along the boundary of North Cotabato and Bukidnon provinces.
The ambush was staged by the Herminio Alfonso Operations Command of the NPA's Southern Mindanao Region Front 53, according to Isabel Santiago, a rebel spokesperson.
Maj. Lyndon Paniza, commander of the 39th IB, said the troops were on their way to Barangay Ilustre, in the boundary of Arakan and Antipas towns, when attacked by at least 20 NPA rebels.
Ilustre is known to be highly influenced by the NPA.
The NPA raided the next day the detachment manned by the 39th IB and members of the Civlian Armed Force Geographical Unit in Barangay Anapulon in Arakan. The rebels carted away a shotgun and a Garand rifle.
The rebels also disarmed the barangay chair of Kabalantian, also in Arakan town, whom they accused of helping the military in operations against the NPA.
Santiago denied reports many of the ambushers were killed and injured when the soldiers fired back.
"Walay nakalas o nasamdan man lang sa mga pulang manggugubat ug luwas kining nakahawa gikan sa lugar giambusan nga dala ang taas nga moral ug kadasig," (None of our Red fighters was killed or injured and they were able to flee from the area, with high moral and willpower) Santiago said.
Maj. Raymundo D. Aguada, spokesman of the 10th Infantry Division, accused the NPA of violating International Humanitarian Law for using landmines in the attack.
[The 1997 Ottawa Treaty does not ban command-detonated landmines per se but only anti-personnel or victim-detonated landmines for being inherently indiscriminate and the danger they pose to civilians. The Philippines ratified the treaty and the National Democratic Front has declared adherence to it. – Ed.]
Aguada said the 1002nd Infantry Brigade has launched a large-scale military operation against the rebels.
"There will be no let-up in the operations until such time that the area will be cleared of enemy presence and influence," he said. (MindaNews)