Philippine Military Mounts Deadly Raid on Communist Rebels

BenarNews staff
Cebu, Philippines
Philippine Military Mounts Deadly Raid on Communist Rebels Masked protesters hold signs during a rally to commemorate the 49th anniversary of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, near the Malacañang presidential palace in Manila, March 28, 2018.

Government forces killed at least 16 communist guerrillas after launching air, sea and ground operations against the rebels that were still going on late Monday in the eastern Philippines, the military said.

The death toll could increase because government troops were engaging members of the New People’s Army in a gun battle as of sundown in areas near Dolores town in Eastern Samar province, officials said. The NPA is the military wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

“There are 16 rebels dead – body count,” armed forces spokesman Col. Ramon Zagala told BenarNews. “The figure could still go up since we have recovered about 29 firearms, indicating more rebels could have fallen.”

He said other details could not be revealed “due to operational security matters.”

“We will be sure to release an update once our troops complete the operations,” Zagala said, adding that there were no reports of casualties on the government side.

Rebel spokesmen could not be reached for comment immediately.

Monday’s raid began at dawn after civilians tipped off the military that a large group of NPA fighters maintained an encampment near Dolores that doubled as a bomb-making facility, military officials said.

The Philippine communist guerrillas have been waging one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies, which began in 1969.

The government of President Rodrigo Duterte ended peace talks with the CPP in 2017 after accusing the rebels of carrying out deadly attacks despite the negotiations. 

Last year, the government proscribed both the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations. In June, the government added the communist party’s political wing, the National Democratic Front, to that list and froze bank accounts linked to the movement.

The NPA’s strength is estimated at around 5,000 fighters nationwide, down from at least 20,000 at its peak in the 1980s.

The government, however, has failed to break the insurgency even as it seeks to engage rebel fighters in talks at the local level, rather than through negotiations that involve Jose Maria Sison, the CPP’s leader who lives in self-exile in the Netherlands.

Jeoffrey Maitem contributed to this report from Cotabato City, Philippines.


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