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8 slain as soldiers, rebels clash anew

By FROILAN GALLARDO, Special Correspondent
and NITZ ARANCON, Correspondent . 

AT least eight rebels and soldiers were killed in an encounter following an attack on an Army detachment in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon on Valentine’s Day.

The New People’s Army in northern Mindanao said in a communiqué that around 50 of their fighters raided the detachment of the Army 1st Special Forces Battalion in Sitio Green Valley, Barangay Dalwangan in Bukidnon around 9 pm Thursday night.

“The raid was successful. The fighters were able to overwhelm the defenders in just five minutes,” said one Ka Emil of the NPA in northern Mindanao.

He said four soldiers were killed in the attack and their fighters were able to seize six firearms, including M4 rifles and ammunition.

The military said some 11 members of the Special Forces were reportedly on patrol when they chanced on about 30 rebels.

Col. Edgardo de Leon, commander of the Army 403rd Infantry Brigade, denied the claim made by the NPA saying it was the rebels who paid the higher price.

De Leon said the soldiers fought back the raiders and killed four rebels.

“Our soldiers fought back ferociously and it was the rebels who paid the price,” he said.

De Leon said only two soldiers, not four, were killed in the attack.

He said they are currently doing an inventory to check the veracity of the NPA claim that its fighters were able to seize six firearms.

But another report said that soldiers found at the encounter site two M-16 rifles and magazines and two unexploded anti-personnel mines with a 200-meter electrical wire.

Lt. Col. Sergio Macarandan Jr., 1st Special Forces Battalion commander, said the families of two slain soldiers were already informed.

Meanwhile, in Agusan del Norte, the Army said the NPA rebels released on Valentine’s Day six of the 14 soldiers and militiamen they captured last December.

Capt. Regie Go, public information officer of the Army 4th Infantry Division, said the release took place in Barangay San Juan, Bayugan City in Agusan del Norte at around 6 pm on Thursday.

Go said Army units are pursuing the rebels who are still holding the remaining eight soldiers and militiamen.

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