Military clearing operations underway at village seized by NPAs in N. Cotabato

ANTIPAS, North Cotabato-- Authorities are conducting clearing operations in upland Barangay Camutan here seized overnight by some 100 New People's Army (NPA) rebels, officials said Friday morning.

Sr. Insp. Rolando Dillera, Antipas police chief, said more families were forced to vacate their homes and stayed at the village center as tension continues to grip the village amid ongoing military pursuit operation.

Currently, a total of 181 families coming from Sitio Malapangi, Embagan and Matias in Barangay Camutan and Sitio Patot, Barangay Datu Agod are sheltered in designated evacuation sites at the town proper.

"The military is pushing away the rebels and clearing the area from landmines that were possibly mounted by the withdrawing rebels," Dillera said.

He maintained that so far, there were no reported casualties on both civilians and government forces following the Thursday dawn siege staged by the rebels in Camutan village.

Mayor Equidio Cadungon temporarily suspended classes in all levels in the villages of Canaan, Camutan and Sitio Embagan for security purposes.

"We are still awaiting the go - signal from authorities to send back home safely the displaced families," the mayor said.

A military report identified the rebel leader behind the incident as Commander Joel of the NPA Guerilla Front 53, which operates in North Cotabato province.

The same report said that the rebels were trying to persuade the villagers to join their group, but the locals opted to evacuate and informed authorities about the presence of the NPAs in their area.

The atrocity here took place a week after President Rodrigo Duterte laid down several conditions for the resumption of the stalled talks between government and the communist rebels.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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