103 families flee fighting in Surigao Norte

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/30 May) — Dozens of families had fled their homes since Thursday morning (May 30, 2014) after a firefight between communist rebels and government forces in a mountainous part of Mainit town in Surigao del Norte.

Lt. Col. Arsenio Sadural, commanding officer of 30th Infantry Battalion basin in Sta. Cruz, Placer, Surigao del Norte said his troops clashed with some 20 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels 6:45 a.m. Thursday in Mount Taglintian in Barangay Tagbuyawan, Mainit.

He said the gunfight lasted for about an hour and resulted in the death of at least two still unidentified rebels.

He added the residents did not evacuate since the encounter occurred far from populated areas.

But Nokie Calungsag, campaign officer of Green Mindanao told MindaNews 72 families from Barangay Tapian and 31 families from Barangay Tagbuyawan fled their homes.

Calunsag said some of the evacuees sought shelter at the government-owned Kasili Resort beside Lake Mainit, while others went to their relatives’ houses in the town proper.

He said the residents were afraid that armed men might barge into their houses.

“They told me that they are going home either today (May 30) or tomorrow,” he said.

Green Mindanao, an environment group, has a project in Lake Mainit.

Sadural meanwhile said his troops recovered four long firearms (AK74 rifle, M653 rifle, M14 rifle and .22 rifle) ammunition, food supplies and documents.

He said that a few days before the encounter, they got word that NPA rebels were in the barangay to demand food and money from the residents.

“I gave orders to 1Lt. Aaron Talens, commanding officer of Charlie Company to pursue the reported lawless elements and stop them from sowing terror among communities. After identifying the area where the NPAs are frequently being monitored, the troops conducted operation that led to the encounter,” he said. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)