Latest fighting in Sorsogon; Army, NPA exchange claims of body count

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Bulusan, Sorsogon. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Bulusan, Sorsogon. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

SORSOGON CITY, Sorsogon Province, 03Oct2013 (BicolToday.com) – Another firefight was reported in Bulusan town, this province on Sunday, where New People’s Army (NPA) rebels suffered casualties, the Army said Monday, September 30.

However, the Army did not clarify actual body count of rebel casualties in the Bulusan fighting, but summed it up as “undetermined number.”

In a related development, the NPA also made claims that the Army had suffered 17 casualties, dead and wounded, during the Army’s weeks- long offensive that started September 15. The NPA claim could not be verified.

On the latest Bulusan encounter Sunday, September 29, the Army reported that NPA rebels were sighted in the hinterland areas, and a composite platoon of 31st Infantry Battalion, under 1st Lt. Abdul Hamid M. Salik and 1st Lt. Dominic De Guzman, figured in a series of gunfight with the rebel group at Sta Barbara and Sitio Kaprikuhan, San Isidro villages.

Col. Joselito Kakilala, Commander of 903rd Infantry Brigade exercising operational control over 31st Infantry Battalion, said on Tuesday the series of clashes with the rebels, which both lasted for about ten (10) minutes, were still part of the continuing tactical offensives of the soldiers aimed to track down the large band of heavily armed NPAs who had evaded government troops during the encounters on September 22, 2013 in the mountainous area of Juban, Sorsogon.

“In as much as we desire to put an end to our tactical offensives against the NPA rebels, their hostile reactions left us with no choice, but to continue to locate them in their suspected lairs. We will continue to hunt them wherever they go. We will constrict their area of operations in order to leave them with no room where they can conduct their atrocities”, Colonel Kakilala further stated.

According to Army intelligence reports, an undetermined number of communist rebels suffered considerable casualties during the encounters, while no casualty on the side of the government troops.
Meanwhile, the NPA command in this province claimed a total of seventeen (17) Army soldiers died and others injured over the week-long Army battalion-size offensive that started September 15 until September 22 on the upland villages of Juban, Bulan, and Magallanes towns.

The clandestine NPA group here called Celso Minguez Command (NPA-CMC) issued a communique on the internet, saying that their forces did not suffer casualties, but state security forces had suffered some 17 soldiers injured and killed.

The NPA said the casualty report came from rural folks who allegedly saw the injured being carried away by soldiers.

The veracity of the NPA claim of casualties on the government side could not be verified, but the Army insisted its troops did not suffer any casualty.

NPA-CMC also said, in its statement Tuesday, September 24, the Army has imposed “media blackout” to hide its series of losses during several encounters with their units over a week period.

But, NPA-CMC did not clarify if their forces suffered any casualty during the latest firefight in Bulusan last Sunday.

Previously, the NPA claim was strongly denied by Army Col. Kakilala over radio interview on Tuesday, September 24, and reiterated again during succeeding media interviews.

Colonel Kakilala strongly emphasized that government forces are firmly in control over the area, and that they did not suffer any casualties.

Last week, the Army had used two (2) helicopter gunships over upland villages of Juban on Sunday afternoon, September 22, when fighting against NPA rebels in the area was tough for Army ground troops to handle.

Despite the use of helicopter gunships, NPA-CMC scoffed off the week-long military campaign by claiming successes in thwarting the offensive.

Early reports said NPA-CMC had claimed killing 2 soldiers on Saturday, September 21, by command-detonated landmine while Army troops were maneuvering to attack the rebel position in Dolos village, Bulan town.

On that same day, another rebel team lobbed a hand grenade at an advancing Army platoon. In Magallanes town, 4 Army troopers died when a hand grenade exploded that was thrown by rebels during an operation in Lapinig village.

The day after, another firefight broke out in Calmayon village, the area where helicopter gunships strafed by machine gun fire suspected NPA positions and dropped bombs.

The NPA later said there was no casualty on their side. [BicolToday.com]

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