Army: 2 soldiers slain in landmine attacks in N Cotabato town

March 6, 2012 10:28 am 

KIDAPAWAN CITY, March 6 — Two soldiers were killed when hit by a landmine while conducting pursuit operations in the hinterlands of Barangay Buhay in Makilala, North Cotabato, around 10:10 a.m., Monday, military official said.

Killed were elements of the 40th Infantry Battalion sent in the area to reinforce the patrolling soldiers after they encountered some 50 fully-armed communist guerrillas, Sunday morning, according to Col. Leopoldo Galon of the public affairs division of the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Galon, however, refused to identify the fatalities as they have yet to inform first the families of the slain soldiers.

Lt. Manuel Gatus, chief of the civil military operations of the 57th IB, said at least 10 landmines were blasted by the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) rebels, from 9:45 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. Monday.

The rebels, Gatus said, belong to Front 51 and 53 of the NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command.

The rebels were having a "plenum" in preparation for their 43rd foundation anniversary on March 29, he said.

“Our informants told us the rebels were again extorting money from the residents in the area. So, immediately, after we learned that, we sent troops in the area. While conducting patrol, our men encountered the rebels,” he said.

Reports said at least five of the soldiers were hurt during the encounter last Sunday, many of them hit by landmines.

One of them was identified as Pfc. Alfie Bantulo of the 57th IB.

Gatus admitted having used military support, including 105 mm mortar, to drive the rebels in the boundary of Barangays of Buhay, Batasan, and Buenavida, all in Makilala town, known lair of the NPAs.

The fighting that started Sunday resulted to the displacement of 56 families: 41 from Purok 6, Barangay Batasan, and 15 from Sitio Apoy-Apoy, Barangay Buenavida, data from the social welfare office of the Makilala LGU showed.

Makilala municipal social welfare officer Lina Canedo said many of the evacuees were housed temporarily in their relatives’ homes in Purok-4 in Barangay Batasan and others stayed at the social hall in Barangay Buenavida.

Gatus said they are bent on filing complaints of violation of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) against the rebels at the joint committee of the government and the National Democratic Front for continuously using landmines in their attacks despite the ban.

The rebels had also used young combatants in their struggle, which, he said, was clear violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and the IHL (CARHRIHL). (PNA)

FFC/nyp/MCM/mec

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