NPA rebels ambush soldiers in North Cotabato amid Rome peace talks

MAKILALA, North Cotabato — A New People’s Army rebel was killed and five others were hurt in a clash between them and government forces over the weekend in a communist-infiltrated village here, police and the military said.

Army Colonel Harold Argamosa, 39th Infantry Battalion commanding officer, in a report, identified the slain rebel as Rojit Ranara of CPP-NPA-NDF Front 51.

In a statement released by 10th Infantry Division, elements of the 39th Infantry Battalion and Makilala PNP responded to a report that communist rebels have harassed the driver and cargo truck of Santos Land Development Corporation (SLDC), a banana firm operating in North Cotabato.

The 10th ID said as the soldiers were heading toward Barangay Biangan at 5 p.m., they were fired upon by still undetermined number of rebels. An hour-long firefight erupted.

The next day, clashes erupted anew at 5:30 a.m., leaving one rebel killed and the recovery of three M-16 rifles and personal belongings of the slain rebel.

The 10th ID said the soldiers were only responding to a harassment against a cargo truck and not a military offensive against communist rebels.

Earlier, Delio Tongco, SLDC truck driver, reported to the police that gunmen flagged down his truck, took the vehicles ignition key, and fled. The gunmen also threatened to burn SLDC vehicles if revolutionary tax demands are ignored.

A spokesperson for the communist movement in Southern Mindanao, Rigoberto Sanchez, said in a statement that eight soldiers and an NPA rebel were killed in the clashes.

But the military denied the report, calling it a propaganda.

The clashes erupted amid peace talks between the government and NPA leaders in Rome.