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Mario J. Mallari

5 troops killed in ambush

Saturday, 28 February 2015 00:00 Published in Nation

Five soldiers were killed while five others were wounded after clashing with communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Ilocos Sur province Thursday night, reports reaching Camp Aguinaldo said yesterday.

Lt. Col. Jason Bajet, commander of the Army’s 81st Infantry Battalion (IB), said that a platoon of his men, along with the police Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB), were conducting law enforcement operation along Barangay Namitpit, Quirino town at around 8 p.m. when they were ambushed by NPA rebels.
Bajet said that the troops were aboard a military truck when waylaid by more or less 15 fully-armed NPA rebels.
According to Bajet, the NPA rebels positioned themselves near civilian houses, thus they used residents as human shields.
“The NPA bandits used the civilians as human shields in that particular encounter. My troops tried their best to avoid civilian casualties by controlling their fires,” said Bajet.
Bajet added that the soldiers immediately dismounted to suppress the enemy while retrieving the casualties inside the kill zone.
Reports said that five soldiers were killed while five others were wounded.
The troops were able to call for reinforcements and civilian ambulances but these were fired upon by the bandits upon their arrival at around 10 p.m., forcing the drivers to turn back towards a safer location.
Bajet said that the soldiers treated their wounded comrade using their issued combat life saver kits and individual first aid kits.
“I commend my combat medics for their expertise in giving first aid to the wounded soldiers. They were able to save those who sustained injuries in this firefight,” Bajet said.
The casualties were finally retrieved from the encounter site early morning yesterday, using two UH1H helicopters.
AFP chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. immediately extended his condolences to the bereaved families of the fallen soldiers.
“I extend my sincerest and heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families of our fallen soldiers. Rest assured that their heroism and sacrifices will not be in vain,” Catapang said.

13 wounded SAF fighters discharged from hospital

Saturday, 28 February 2015 00:00 Published in Nation

Thirteen of the 15 wounded Special Action Force (SAF) commandos figured in the Jan. 25 launching of Operation Plan “Exodus” have reunited with their families after completing medical treatment, including stress debriefing, at the Philippine National Police (PNP) General Hospital in Camp Crame.

At a press briefing, Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr., PNP spokesman, said that the two other SAF commandos are still in need of further medical attention and will stay at the PNP-General Hospital until they are ready.
“They were discharged from the hospital now and are now in secured places with their families…so that they can rest with their loved ones,” Cerbo said.
“The two others need further medical treatment and attention,” he added.
Cerbo said that most of the 15 SAF commandos sustained gun-shot wounds as a result of the Oplan “Exodus” that ended in the killing of 44 SAF operatives, including seven junior officers, and Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan.
Aside from treatment of their wounds, Cerbo said that the SAF casualties also underwent psychological tests.
According to Cerbo, spending time with their families is part of the treatment of the SAF.
“The Health Service guarantees (they are mentally healthy. They underwent psychological tests to attend to their stress and trauma, including counselling. It was all okay,” Cerbo said.
Cerbo assured that the PNP leadership will consider any request from the SAF men to transfer unit within the organization. But he maintained that there is no such request yet.
The PNP spokesman also said that the PNP is ready to provide security to the SAF commandos, who would be going home to their provinces.
“It depends on the exposure in Mamasapano, case to case basis. But that won’t be a problem,” vowed Cerbo.
A total of 392 SAF commandos, picked from various units, were dispatched to Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25 for the launching of Oplan “Exodus” to get Marwan and his Filipino henchman Basit Usman, who escaped.
The SAF commandos were engaged by combined Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters forces in barangays Pidsandawan and Tukanalipao in a day-long clash.

Intense BIFF-AFP gunbattle erupts in Maguindanao town

Saturday, 28 February 2015 00:00 Published in Nation

Elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) yesterday occupied part of the Tacurong-Cotabato Highway in Maguindanao, prompting the military to send troops to flush the Moro rebels out of the strategic road.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office chief, said that military troops engaged around 60 BIFF rebels, led by a certain commander Bongos, along Barangay Iginagampong, Datu Unsay town at around 8 a.m.
Cabunoc said that the clash led to a running gun battle that lasted until noon time yesterday.
According to Cabunoc, the BIFF rebels occupied part of the Tacurong-Cotabato Highway and shot passing vehicles including the M35 trucks of the Philippine Army and a Starex van owned by a civilian.
“Soldiers were sent to confront the bandits, triggering a three-hour running gun battle that lasted until past noon,” said Cabunoc.
“No casualties were recorded on both sides but the soldiers spotted enemy casualties being dragged by their companions as they fled toward the marshland,” he added
The troops also seized improvised bombs left by the bandits.
“Pursuit operations are ongoing,” said Cabunoc.
Yesterday’s clash was the first since AFP chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. ordered on Wednesday for an all-out offensive operations against the BIFF which staged atrocities in Kabasalan Complex in Pikit and Pagalungan, Maguindanao more than two weeks ago.
The BIFF burned down at least 15 houses of individuals believed to have ties with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Initial reports said that the conflict between the BIFF ad MILF in Kabasalan was caused by a rido or clan war between the groups of BIFF commander Karialan and MILF commander Jack Abas.
Last Saturday, the military, in coordination with the MILF, pounded BIFF positions in the complex, leaving dozens of BIFF members killed.
The AFP justified the bombardment, citing more or less 25,000 civilians had been displaced by the BIFFF atrocities.
Relatedly, the AFP said that 2,000 people have returned to their homes in Pikit after the BIFF forces were flushed out from the area.
“Clearing operations have been carried out in other villages in preparation to the return of the rest of the evacuees from Pagalungan town,” Cabunoc said.
“The AFP has collaborated with international non-government organizations and local government units in delivering relief goods to the affected families right inside their communities in the hinterland villages of Kabasalan, Buliok, Barungis, and Bagoinged, all in Pikit,” he added.

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