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150 flee fighting between NPA, troops in Agusan del Sur

MANILA, Philippines -- Forty families, or more than 150 individuals, most of them children, have fled their homes in a remote village of Trento town, Agusan del Sur to escape heavy fighting between communist guerrillas and government troops that broke out Monday.

The fighting began when soldiers from the 25th Infantry Battalion spotted New People’s Army fighters in Barangay New Visayas.

The soldiers had been meeting the villagers as part of the government’s counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan.

The displaced families sought shelter in the nearby village of Pulang Lupa.

Others remained at the multi-purpose hall of New Visayas.

The evacuees said military air strikes were launched at the height of the fighting.

Ricardo Caduplana, an evacuee, counted at least eight bomb explosions.

“The fighting lasted from eight in the morning until noontime. The military sent in choppers and attack planes in the afternoon and dropped around eight bombs,” he said.

Caduplana and the other residents said they would not have left their village if they did not fear for the safety of their children.

“The children were very scared. They could not stop crying,” he said.

But the military said the residents needed to leave the village to allow the soldiers to pursue the rebels.

Ailyn Quilaton fled the village with her two young children, who were sleeping at the floor of the evacuation center.

“We have not brought anything. We fled after hearing the first burst of gunfire,” she said.

“Unta magsinabtanay na lang (I hope the two parties will stop the war),” she said.

“We have not received reports of civilian casualties or damaged properties. But we have IDPs (internally displaced persons), which is something unavoidable in times of clashes because civilians really get scared. Right now, we are taking care of them,” said Lieutenant Colonel Danilo Benavides of the 75th Infantry Battalion.

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/InterAksyon.Com | May 9, 2012 | Article Link

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