MARAWI CITY: Two Army soldiers were wounded in a clash with communist rebels in the Muslim province of Lanao del Sur in southern Philippines, officials said Monday.

Lt. Angel Manglapus, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, said troops under the 103rd Infantry Brigade (IB) encountered on Sunday at least 10 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the village of Sabala Bantayao in Lumba Bayabao town.

There was no immediate report of enemy casualties, and Manglapus did not release the names of the wounded soldiers.

Manglapus said troops were tracking down about 180 rebels when they stumbled upon an outpost of the NPA manned by at least 10 insurgents. A firefight ensued.

He said the presence of rebels have alarmed the villagers and tipped off the military.

Members from Guerrilla Front 12, which is under the Sub-Regional Committee 5, entered the town of Lumba Bayabao to conduct a basic military training and to elude military operations in Bukidnon, he said.

“However, their foraging and extortion activities affected the locals and this prompted the latter to report their presence to military authorities stationed in the said town,” added Manglapus.

It was learned that the 103rd IB launched an operation utilizing 49th, 55th and 82nd Infantry Battalions (IBs), and the 15th Division Reconnaissance Company (DRC) in the area until personnel from the 49th IB and the 15th DRC discovered the NPA outpost and engaged the enemy forces.

Two were slightly hurt on the government’s side while the casualty on the enemy’s side is yet to be determined, the military said.

Brig. Gen. Romeo Brawner, commander of the 103rd IB, has urged rebels to surrender peacefully.

“Instead of continuing a futile armed struggle where thousands of innocent citizens are being abused and caught in the crossfire, the NPA members should consider surrendering and avail the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Livelihood and Integration Program so they could enjoy living normal lives and spend quality time with their loved ones,” he said.

Meanwhile, the provincial government of Lanao del Sur earlier declared the NPA as persona non grata in the province and pledged their support to the country’s effort to end communist armed conflict.

Maute remnants-NPAs forging tactical alliance?

About two weeks ago, there were unconfirmed reports from the locals that the NPAs and the remnants of the Dawlah Islamia-inspired Maute groups were forming a tactical alliance against the government.

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The reports said their areas of operations would be in hinterlands of the municipalities of Lumba Bayabao in the East and Butig and Ganassi in the west of Lanao del Sur.
The report’s veracity however could not be confirmed as authorities preferred to be silent about it until the Sunday encounter between the military and the communist guerrillas occurred in Lumba-Bayabao.

With a report from AL JACINTO



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