83 families flee homes in Sorsogon firefight, helicopter strafing

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org

SORSOGON CITY, 23Sept2013 (BicolToday.com) – Eighty one (81) families, sixty (60) households in upper Maalo village, Juban town, had fled their homes as the firefight between Army soldiers and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels worsened, while two families in Calmayon village evacuated their houses as a result of heavy helicopter gunfire on Sunday, updated reports reached BicolToday.com on Monday morning, September 23.

The local government of Juban informed BicolToday.com Monday noon that it has sent foodstuffs to evacuation centers where the civilian refugees have taken refuge as a result of fierce fighting since Saturday, September 21.

As of today (Monday), several refugees have returned to their homes as fighting has stopped, and that the evacuees must attend to their copra processing livelihood, said Juban information officer Reline Arellano.

Meantime, Army combat operations are reported still ongoing on in attempt to flush out rebel units in the foothills of Mount Bentacan, particularly the upper villages of Maalo and Calmayon, Juban town.

Last Sunday, two helicopter gunships unloaded a hail of bullets on suspected rebels’ lairs, but several civilians reported on late Sunday afternoon  that the strafing had targeted civilian-populated areas.

As of Monday, the Army local command has not issued any statement confirming the strafing incident.

Reports reached this online news group that the Army had conducted, since  September 15, “battalion-size” operations in the mountain foothills of Juban, Bulan, and Magallanes towns.

The big military operation is an attempt to score some successes in its counter-insurgency program to end their yearly summary report of accomplishments for year 2013. This, in addition, to its success in decimating the underground information group in early July, when rebel spokesman Greg Banares, with seven other rebel leaders, were shot dead during a firefight in Juban town.

The strafing incident has drawn in sharp reaction from an online news reader named  Choi, saying Army combat operations that render damaging effects on civilians would not help in its counter-insurgency program, Instead, the government should focus more in combating poverty. [BicolToday.com]

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