Philippine security forces killed at least five suspected communist guerrillas in two clashes in the southern Mindanao region during the weekend, the military said Tuesday.
A group of 20 soldiers on foot patrol on Sunday in the town of Carmen in Surigao del Sur province came upon 10 men believed to be New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas, who engaged the troops in a gunbattle for several minutes, said Capt. Francisco Garello, the local army spokesman.
“We’ve been monitoring their presence since the May 13 elections. We moved against them when we realized they were still there after the elections,” Garello said, referring to the midterm polls in which millions of voters chose more than 18,000 local officials and 12 members of the Philippine Senate.
“The soldiers and rebels were chasing each other,” he said. “It was a running gunbattle for 15 minutes.”
Garello said the soldiers recovered the bodies of four men and seized three AK-47 and two M16 rifles, three mobile phones and assorted ammunition. He said there were no reports of casualties from the military side.
On the same day in Remedios Romualdez town in Agusan del Norte province, about 129 km (80 miles) south of Surigao del Sur, Philippine Army members engaged a band of gunmen believed to be NPA rebels, he said.
Garello said soldiers killed a suspected guerrilla and recovered an AK 47 rifle with two ammunition cartridges from the slain man.
The clashes were the deadliest since suspected NPA rebels killed at least six soldiers and wounded six others in a pre-dawn ambush in April in the central Philippine town of Calbiga in Samar province, officials said.
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging one of Asia’s longest-running rebellions since the 1960s. Efforts to strike a peace agreement with the group fell through, with President Rodrigo Duterte saying there won’t be talks for the duration of his six-year term that ends in 2022.