Thursday, January 24, 2019

Army, IS-linked armed men clash in Lanao Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 24, 2019): Army, IS-linked armed men clash in Lanao Sur

Heavy firefight erupted Thursday morning at the border of two upland towns in Lanao del Sur between the military and remnants of Maute terrorist group, police said.

Senior Supt. Madzgani Mukaram, Lanao del Sur police director, said soldiers belonging to the Army’s 49th and 55th Infantry Battalions engaged about 30 suspected members of the Maute terrorist group under Commander Abu Dar in the area.

Dar survived the government’s assault during the retaking of Marawi City following a five-month siege by terrorists in 2017 and assumed leadership of the Islamic State-linked gunmen in Lanao Sur.

“No casualty was reported on the government side, we are not sure on the enemy side,” Mukaram said in a phone interview, adding that the military had to use artillery to hit the terrorists hiding in the borders of Barangay Sumalindaw, Sultan Dumalundong town, and Barangay Piangulugan in Marogong town.

“The Army is requesting reinforcements to prevent the terrorists from fleeing to civilian areas, we are sending our police combat units,” Mukaram said.

The town of Sultan Dumalundong is adjacent to the town of Butig where the Maute group first hoisted its black flag after they overran the town hall in 2016.

Mukaram said fighting is still going on as of posting time.

Trader shot dead in N. Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 24, 2019): Trader shot dead in N. Cotabato

Gunmen on board a motorbike shot dead a businessman in front of his home in the North Cotabato town of Pikit on Wednesday afternoon, police said.

It was the 15th shooting incident in the town in the past three months despite the presence of police and soldiers from the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion in the area.

Senior Insp. Mauti Pangandigan, Pikit town police chief, identified the slain trader as Kamarudin Tutol, 50, of Barangay Poblacion in Pikit.

“At about 4:30 p.m., two men riding in tandem on a motorbike arrived and pumped bullets on Tutol without provocation,” Pangandigan said.

The victim succumbed to gunshot wounds in the chest and stomach. After the shooting, witnesses said the killers sped off towards an unknown direction.

Tutol was rushed to the Cruzado Medical Clinic but was declared dead on arrival.

Pangandigan said personal grudge could have motivated the murder.

Blame rebels for evacuation in Samar village -- Army

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 24, 2019): Blame rebels for evacuation in Samar village -- Army

A structure in an abandoned New People's Army hideout discovered by soldiers in Bay-ang village in San Jorge, Samar in recent operations. (File photo courtersy of Philippine Army)

The New People’s Army (NPA) should take the blame why several families in San Jorge, Samar have been displaced due to ongoing hot pursuit operations, the Philippine Army said in a statement issued Thursday.

Capt. Cherry Junia, acting public affairs office chief of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division, said government troops have been in Bay-ang village in San Jorge town to pursue communist rebels who attacked the soldiers of 63rd Infantry Battalion two weeks ago. The ambush slightly injured nine soldiers.

“The presence of troops in San Jorge is to help track down rebels and to safeguard the people from the resurgence of the NPA terrorists,” Junia said.

In a social media post, the communist rebels claimed that 37 residents in Bay-ang village moved to the town health center for fear of being caught in the crossfire between government troops and rebels.

The rebels also asked the military to pull out its troops from the village to allow people to return to their normal economic activities.

The recent discovery of the rebels' lair in Bay-ang "merely shows that the military was not the first one who created threat among the localities, it is the terrorists New People’s Army." Junia said.

The discovery of the hideout "signifies that they have stayed long in the area to conduct extortion, recruitment and other illegal activities that made the people of Bay-ang suffer every single day,” he added.

The military found four multi-purpose halls, one big mess hall, one classroom with medical facilities, one training ground, four caves with one supply room, restrooms, and five kitchens. Recovered inside the camp were 13 posts, laminated sacks, one C type claymore mine, oil container with gas, 122 bunkers, two generators, two M16 magazines, one .45-caliber magazine, assorted wires, 10 water containers, one command switch for bomb, eight assorted light bulbs and subversive documents.

“In fact, the NPA terrorists should be the one to leave the people of Bay-ang not the military, because the presence of the military is to secure and protect the well-being of the people.”

The military will continue its pursuit operation until these terrorists stop their illegal activities, Junia said.

Earlier, the Philippine Army said the Jan. 12 encounter between government troops and rebels in San Jorge town has derailed the planned attacks of the group in Eastern Visayas. The troops discovered the encampment after two days.

The military said rebels have been planning to launch tactical offensives in Leyte and Samar provinces, prompting the brigade to step up their combat operations in northern part of Samar Island, considered as NPA’s stronghold in the region.

The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union. The communist rebels have been battling government forces for 50 years. The communist rebellion in the Philippines is one of Asia's longest-running insurgencies.

Ex-NPA rebel reunites with 4 children in DavOr

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 24, 2019): Ex-NPA rebel reunites with 4 children in DavOr


Former New People's Army (NPA) rebel Mylene (in gray shirt) reunites with her four children on Wednesday at the Naval Station Felix Apolinario in Panacan, Davao City. (PNA photo by Lilian C Mellejor)
DAVAO CITY -- A 28-year-old mother who abandoned the New People’s Army (NPA) over the weekend was finally reunited with her four children on Wednesday at the Naval Station Felix Apolinario in Panacan, this city.

Mylene, whose identity was withheld for security reasons, cried when she saw her children and her mother-in-law who hugged her.

Mylene surrendered to the Army's 67th Infantry Battalion (67IB) on Sunday (January 20) following an encounter with government troops in the Davao Oriental town of Cateel.

Abandoned by her comrades, she sought the help of village officials and turned herself in to the 67IB, headed by Lt. Col. Jake Obligado.

Mylene said her journey with the communist rebellion started in 2011 when she joined her husband Michael as a medic for the NPA's Guerrilla Front 25 operating between the boundaries of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental provinces.

She said she became inactive from the rebel movement in 2015 so that she could raise her children. When her husband died in an encounter sometime last year, Mylene said she was again recruited to the rebel group and left her children to the care of her mother-in-law.

“I was not sure who killed him. The NPA told me the government soldiers,” she said.

“It was difficult. I was only a housewife and my husband only earned little from odd jobs,” she added, insisting that she and her husband joined the NPA because of the promised financial support.

However, Mylene said the financial assistance only lasted for a while, and the family was soon starving in the mountains -- sometimes moving around for days with no food.

Mylene said she regretted the day she left her children, saying she did not expect her children to understand her decisions.

Mylene was also reunited with three other comrades, 19-year-old Rex, 18-year-old Loloy and 16-year-old Cindy -- the three were NPA regulars who surrendered separately to the 67IB recently.

Obligado said their surrender -- especially of Mylene and Cindy who were medics -- was a big loss to the NPA, which he said has been weakened with the steady stream of departures of its members in recent months.

Obligado attributed the surrender of many NPA members and supporters to the government's approach to addressing poverty in far-flung communities.

“Kung military solution lang hindi namin magawa (A military solution can't simply do it. A good whole-of-nation approach will solve the insurgency,” the Army official said in an interview on Wednesday.

Obligado said Davao Oriental, for instance, has a good community support program initiated by the local government units.

The provincial government, he said, has programs for health, infrastructure, disaster preparedness, education, and livelihood for rebel returnees.

Davao Oriental also has a Happy Home, a facility where former rebels can access training for livelihood and other services.

Since February 2017 to January 2019, Obligado said the 67IB has already received about 150 NPA surrenderers.

3 soldiers hurt as troops, Maute remnants clash in Lanao Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 24, 2019): 3 soldiers hurt as troops, Maute remnants clash in Lanao Sur

A fresh firefight erupted between government forces and remnants of the Islamic State-inspired Maute group in Lanao del Sur on Thursday, wounding three soldiers.

Col. Romeo Brawner, the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade commander, said the clash broke out in Sultan Dumalondong town at about 8:10 a.m., when the troops chanced upon
a group of 24 followers of Owaida Benito Marohombsar alias Abu Dar.

Brawner said that the Maute remnants were believed to have also suffered casualties. He did not elaborate.

Brawner was unable to release the names of the wounded soldiers except to say two of them belong to the Army’s 55th Infantry Battalion and one to the 82nd Infantry Battalion.

The wounded soldiers "were immediately extricated from the encounter site for medical treatment."

"We are calling on the public not to panic and not to evacuate because we have everything under control," he added.

Major Gen. Roseller Murillo, the Army’s 1st Infantry Division commander said, “The armed encounter is the result of our relentless campaign against Maute IS remnants and the Abu Dar group."

Murillo assured that the wounded soldiers will be provided the best medical facilities and treatment.