13 NPAs, 5 soldiers killed in Bukidnon clashes

Maj. Michele Anayron Jr., spokesperson of the Army’s Fourth Infantry Division, said the fighting started when soldiers from the 29th Infantry Battalion encountered 30 NPA rebels protecting their makeshift camp in the mountain village of Sta. Cruz in the municipality of Quezon last Sunday.

He said the fighting raged for more than four hours but eventually the soldiers were able to dislodge the rebels and capture the camp.

Anayron said two bodies of NPA rebels were found by soldiers in the camp. One soldier also died in the gunbattle around the camp.

Four hours later, Anayron said pursuing soldiers caught up with the rebels in nearby Barangay Lipa, also in Quezon town, triggering a three-hour gunbattle.

He said four soldiers died in the three-hour gunbattle while six rebels were also killed.

Anayron said the bodies of three other NPA rebels were found by soldiers buried hastily along the route where the rebels have withdrawn.

"Aside from their dead, 12 NPA rebels were wounded. We based our estimates on the text message we found on a cell phone we found on one of the dead rebels," Anayron told MindaNews by phone.

He said a third gunbattle occurred in the sugar fields in Barangay Kiburiao in Quezon on Monday, resulting to the death of two rebels and wounding of three others. 

Anayron said MG 520 helicopters were deployed in Quezon town to help soldiers hunt the remaining band of rebels.

"We think the main rebel band is still in the area and is trying to bring out their wounded," he said.

Anayron said they have already refused requests from the local government of Quezon and representatives of the International Committee of Red Cross to enter the battle ground.

"Our troops in the field cannot just disengaged to allow the local officials and ICRC to come in. They are so close to the rebels right now," he said. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)