ANTIPAS, North Cotabato-- An intense firefight, punctuated by spontaneous gunfire and grenade explosions, erupted Thursday night between the military and New People's Army (NPA) rebels in upland Sitio Malapangi, Barangay Camutan here.
The gun battle, which broke out around 7:00 p.m., came after efforts by local officials to convince the rebels on releasing over 100 trapped civilians failed following a daylong negotiation on Thursday.
"Tension remained high in Sitio Malapangi throughout the night," Chief Insp. Rolando Dillera, Antipas police chief, said.
Dillera noted that the site of battle is only five kilometers away from the town center.
At least four other neighboring areas, those of Sitios Matias and Gumay, and Barangays Agod and Malire, were affected by the hostilities.
At least 100 rebels stormed the sub-village of Malapangi around 4:00 a.m. Thursday, sending off some 100 families scampering to safer grounds.
The rebels, however, withheld a number of families, apparently to use them as human shields, Dillera said.
As of 7:00 a.m. Friday, joint elements of the Army's 39th Infantry Battalion and local police force are still assessing the situation in the area.
Source: Philippines News Agency