SORSOGON CITY, 23Sept2013 (BicolToday.com) – Large number of men, women and children on Sunday, September 22, fled and evacuated the upland areas of Mount Bentacan in the villages of Calmayon and Maalo, Juban town this province after two (2) helicopter gunships strafed the areas with heavy gunfire during a series of firefight between government soldiers and New People’s Army rebels.
The strafing incident by helicopter gunships on Sunday happened near civilian-populated areas, but there was still no report of civilian casualties, initial reports reached BicolToday.com late evening yesterday.
According to civilian sources, there were series of firefight between Army soldiers and NPA rebels since Saturday in the mountain areas of Juban town, and the helicopter strafing was part of military combat operations.
The local government of the town, through its public information officer, Reline Arellano, confirmed the evacuation of civilian residents, but could not determine the exact number of refugees. The Mayor’s office already sent staff to assess the strafing incident and has prepared foodstuff, blankets, and medicines for the evacuees.
As of Monday, military authorities imposed a news blackout about the ongoing combat operation and has not yet issued an official statement regarding the helicopter strafing incident over civilian populated areas.
However, the rebel group in the province has called on civil humanitarian groups to aid the beleaguered civilian evacuees and to launch protests against military operations targeting civilian-populated areas.
Juban was the scene of a heavy firefight in July where 8 NPA rebels were killed, among those were rebel spokesman Greg Banares and two other top officers of the underground information bureau. [BicolToday.com]