GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/17 February) — A ranking leader of a New People’s Army (NPA) unit operating in the hinterlands of Sarangani and Davao del Sur provinces was reportedly killed in an encounter with government troops in an upland village in Alabel town in Sarangani on Monday.
Lt. Col. Felix Ronnie Babac, commander of the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion, said Tuesday NPA commander Tolentino Bariquit alias Ka Brigol was among the six rebels who were killed in the clash in Sitio Tugal, Barangay Datal Anggas in Alabel at around 8 a.m. on Monday.
No casualties were reported on the government side.
Ka Brigol headed the NPA’s Front 71’s “Platoon Mazda” and previously led Front 74 of the rebel group’s Far South Mindanao Regional Revolutionary Committee.
The official described the slain NPA leader as in his early 50s and among the active commanders of NPA units operating in the hinterland villages of Alabel, Glan and Malapatan towns in Sarangani and Magsaysay town in Davao del Sur.
“We were able to confirm his identity based on the testimonies of local residents,” Babac said in a radio interview.
He said the five other fatalities were named by residents as aliases JM, Mark, Lieutenant, Jonas and Monel.
Recovered from the encounter site were some 20 backpacks owned by the rebels and nine high-powered firearms composed of six Armalite rifles, two Ak-47 rifles and one “baby Armalite” rifle, he said.
Babac said their troops were conducting a peace and development outreach activity in the village on Monday when they received reports that a group of NPA rebels had encamped near the area.
He said local residents, who were mainly composed of poor B’laan tribal folks, complained that the group had been regularly extorting food supplies and other items from them.
Upon reaching the site, he said the rebels immediately fired at their troops resulting in a heavy firefight.
The official said the rebels, who were estimated at around 30 heavily-armed members, later withdrew from the scene towards the direction of the Sarangani-Davao del Sur boundary.
“Our troops actually overrun a temporary encampment of the NPA unit as a result of the operation,” he said.
Babac said the encounter did not result in the evacuation of local residents.
He said they have sent additional troops to the area to secure the residents and continue with their peace and development activities. (MindaNews)