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5 soldiers hurt in clash with NPA rebels

COTABATO CITY, Philippines  – Five soldiers were wounded in two days of hostilities which started Monday between government forces and communist rebels in North Cotabato’s restive Makilala town.

The latest encounter between New People’s Army guerrillas and soldiers, which erupted early Tuesday in Barangay New Israel, Makilala left two soldiers, initially identified only as Cpls. Pantasan and Soria, badly wounded.

The wounded soldiers, who both belong to the 6th ID’s elite 62nd Division Reconnaissance Company, and several companions were on their way to a hinterland area in Barangay New Israel on board an Army truck when NPAs, positioned at one side of the road, shot them with assault rifles.

The companions of Pantasan and Soria managed to jump out of their vehicle and engage their attackers, preventing the rebels from closing in on the soldiers. 
   
The attackers scampered away after sensing that responding soldiers from a nearby Army base, backed by militiamen, have started arriving at the scene.

Inspector Rizal Alolod, the acting Makilala municipal police chief, said the soldiers the NPAs ambushed were on their way to check on complaints of farmers on the extortion by rebels of “revolutionary tax” in Barangay New Israel.

NPA rebels have been frequenting the secluded barangay, where they force farmers to give them money and food at gunpoint.

The latest NPA attack in Barangay New Israel came less than 24 hours after rebels opened fire on another group of soldiers searching for landmines and roadside bombs in an open field in another area not far from the scene of the ambush.

They wounded soldiers, Cpls. Antonio Grafil Jr., Allan Lauria, and Jonathan Santos, who are now undergoing medication at the Makilala Medical Specialist Center at the town proper of Makilala.

Local officials said the NPAs in North Cotabato’s adjoining Magpet, Makilala, Arakan and Antipas towns have been counter-attacking combatants of the 6th ID and its component-unit, the 602nd Brigade, for having liberated more than 20 guerilla enclaves in the four towns the past five months.

Col. Ademar Tomaro, commander of the 602nd Brigade, said NPAs in North Cotabato have also been trying to return to their former camps, which they intend to use as “springboards” for their extortion activities that would target politicians that would campaign  in far-flung areas. 
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John Unson | The Philippine Star | February 12, 2013 | Article Link 

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