BUTIG, Lanao del Sur — Two soldiers from the Army’s 49th Infantry Battalion were wounded in an encounter on Sunday with a group of armed men believed to be members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in the Lanao del Sur town of Lumba Bayabao.
Lt. Colonel Edgar Allan Villanueva, 49th IB chief, said government troops discovered a lair in Sitio Pangulingan, Barangay Sabala Bantayao. But before they managed to penetrate it, a crude bomb exploded and wounded two soldiers.
“They (the rebels) detonated the IED to delay the movement of the government troops. Our two wounded soldiers sustained shrapnel sounds due to 40-mm blast. They are now in safe conditions at a hospital in the 4th ID,” Villanueva said, referring to the 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City.
Villanueva said the rebels are believed to be under NPA’s Guerrilla Front 12.
He identified the wounded soldiers as Corporal Harvey Robrigado and Private First Class Juland Rubio.
Villanueva said the three battalions of the 103rd Infantry Brigade and the 15th Division Reconnaissance Company (DRC) started combat operations on Friday in response to the reports from villagers that around 50 armed men were camping in the area for almost a month.
Villanueva said the site may have been used by the NPA as a “medical training” facility, where government troops managed to recover subversive documents.
“Residents in the area reported that these armed men are inviting selected families, Meranao and Christian, one at a time. It is their way of recruiting sympathizers,” the Army official said.
Brig. Gen. Romeo Brawner, Jr., chief of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade in Marawi City, said the ongoing military operations against the communist rebels “send a message that the NPA is not welcome in Lanao del Sur.”
Brawner noted that Lanao del Sur’s Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) recently declared the NPA as persona non-grata.
“In our assessment, the NPA would like to establish here in Lanao del Sur because this is their source of ammunition and firearms and second, they know that a huge amount of money is coming for the rehabilitation of Marawi City and Lanao del Sur. They want to get a share. That is their activities: they are extortionists,” Brawner said. (PNA)