Militiaman killed, 4 soldiers wounded in Samar encounter

CALBIGA, Samar — A militiaman was killed and four government soldiers were wounded in an encounter with New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in a remote barangay here on Monday.

The firefight between government forces and the NPA happened around 7:35 a.m. Monday in the boundaries of barangays Caamlogan and Guimbaga.

The encounter killed a member of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit and wounded four soldiers. The militiaman didn’t reached the hospital alive.

Lieutenant Colonel Cerilo Balaoro, commander of the Army’s 87th Infantry Battalion, said about 50 NPA rebels waylaid the soldiers who were verifying a tip about the rebels’ presence in the area.

Following a clash that lasted 20 minutes, three suspected communist rebels, one of them a woman, were arrested. They were caught in possession of explosives, guns and subversive documents.

The Calbiga town, a known rebel stronghold in the Samar province, was earlier declared by the government forces as insurgency-free.

Meanwhile, a military spokesperson said the NPA rebels have killed at least 100 government soldiers and policemen across the country and waged 447 attacks in 2011. The figures are down by 184 from the 2010 statistics.

Colonel Arnulfo Burgos, Armed Forces spokesman, said the rebel attacks included 31 assaults on mining firms, banana plantations and other businesses that damaged 1.2 billion worth of equipment and property. Also, the rebels earned nearly P300 million from their extortion activities in 2011, he said.

The government has opened peace talks with the rebels, but the negotiations have been stalled for months over the rebels demand for officials to release more jailed rebels. Norway, which has been brokering the talks, has tried but failed, so far, to bridge the differences.

Although the Marxist insurgency, one of Asia’s longest-running, remains the Philippines’ leading security threat, rebel attacks have declined in recent years. The number of armed rebel fighters dropped to 7.8 percent last year to 4,043, Burgos said.

The rural-based insurgency has endured amid widespread poverty, landlessness and faulty governance in the country’s poorest regions. Clashes have killed an estimated 120,000 combatants and civilians during the 43 years of communist insurgency.

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