2008-06-29 10:18:54 - War planes and attack gunship helicopters of the Philippine Air Force's (PAF) strike wing and helicopter wing of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were deployed to extend air cover to the pursuing Army combat maneuvering battalion who encountered Sunday morning the withdrawing communist insurgents in Surigao del Norte, sketchy reports reaching the tactical advance command post (ACP) of the Army's Northeastern and Northern Mindanao Fourth Infantry (Diamond) Division stated.

The air support to the ground troops started at 10 o'clock in the morning. The war planes and helicopters took off from Bancasi Airport in Butuan City and flew to 'specified target' areas in Claver and still undisclosed targets, it was learned.

Maj. Michele B. Anayron, regional Army spokesman, said blocking combat soldiers of the 30th Infantry Battallion, personally led by
Lt. Col. Cristobal Zaragosa encountered the running New People's Army (NPA) rebels at 9:15 in the morning in nearby coastal area in Panatao, Claver, Surigao del Norte.

At least five NPA rebels were already captured in Lapinigan island while one M16 Armalite rifle with M203 tube was also seized in the ensuing gunbattle.

Identities of the captured NPA rebels were temporarily withheld pending tactical interrogation.

'The boats they (NPA) commandeered encountered sea engine trouble, that's why our troops engaged them,' said Maj. Anayron, adding 'Running gunbattle is still raging in the area'.

Initially, troops of 1Lt. Joselito Anti engaged the estimated 40 withdrawing rebels, who are reportedly members of the CPP-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee, he said.

He said the encountered NPA rebels were part of the attacking communist insurgents in the municipalities of Dapa and General Luna, in Siargao Island of that same province Saturday night.

Maj. Anayron said operating troops in Claver area cannot still determine the number of casualties in Panatao heavy gunbattle as fighting still rages as of press time while another encounter still rages in unidentified coastal area in Claver town.

Brig. Gen. Ricardo A. David Jr., area command chief of the Army's Northeastern and Northern Mindanao Fourth Infantry (Diamond) Division, ordered Brig. Gen. Dante Fernandez, commanding officer of the 402nd Infantry (Stingers) Brigade the deployment of more combat troops in Claver, Maj. Anayron added.

The attack in Siargao Island, the most recorded peaceful area in Northeastern Mindanao (Caraga region) on Saturday night is the first that ever happened in the island.

Chief Supt. Jaime E. Milla, regional director of Northeastern Mindanao Police Regional Office 13 (PRO 13) is currently in the island, particularly in the municipalities of Dapa and General Luna, to assess the situation and to personally supervise the island's police force in the pursuit operation to fleeing communist insurgents.

BUTUAN CITY, June 29 (PNA) -- At least 16 long and short firearms were carted away by an estimated 60 suspected New People's Army rebels who simultaneously ransacked two Municipal Halls and police stations, the Dapa, Surigao del Norte and General Luna Municipal Halls and police offices all in Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte on Saturday at about 10:30 p.m, initial police and military reports said.

The Municipalities of Dapa and General Luna, the country's surfing capital and where many foreigners are now staying, is just 14 kilometers apart from each other, all situated in the Siargao Island.

Siargao Island which has nine municipalities is about two to three hours away by motorboat ride from the sea port of Surigao City.

Fourth Infantry Division Philippine Army spokesman Major Michelle Anayron, Jr. confirmed the attack and claimed military and police reinforcements are now pursuing the attackers believed to be mostly young rebels.

Initial police report reaching this regionʼs capital, particularly at the Caraga Regional Police Information Office here, claimed an estimated 60 fully-armed men and women clad in black uniforms boarding in six vans suddenly disembarked and scattered all over Dapa Municipal Hall Compound.

Twenty of them stormed Dapa Municipal Police Office where about six police personnel allegedly on duty. The raiders announced a raid then ordered all shocked and helpless policemen to lie face down on the floor.

Suspected NPA rebels then took away all six service short firearms and three M-16 armalite rifles of the policemen and undetermined number of ammunitions.

While the 20 suspected NPA rebels were busy guarding and hoarding firearms of the policemen, other comrades of the NPA raiders ransacked nearby government offices situated within the Municipal Hall compound.

The suspects destroyed computers and other facilities of the Dapa Fire Station, Dapa Water District, Dapa Municipal Circuit and Trial Court, SSS, BIR, Philippine Health or Phil Health and Public Attorneyʼs Offices.

Police said the suspects also destroyed computer and other equipment of the Dapa Municipal Police Office.

As the raid in Dapa town progressed, suspected communist rebels, also estimated to be 60 fully armed guerillas, conducted lightning raid on General Luna Municipal Police Office and carted away six service firearms, one M-16 armalite rifle and five others whose caliber or type of firearms were not reported.

Police reports claimed the General Luna Municipal Police Station, led by its chief of police, was able to put-up a firefight for more or less 15 minutes before being overrun by the Communist terrorists.

A certain PO1 William Montilla Dayday was wounded and is presently confined in a hospital.

Like in Dapa, the General Luna Police Station is situated within the Municipal Hall compound.

Same report claimed personnel from Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte Police Provincial Offices and 14th Regional Mobile Group had already deployed as blocking/intercepting forces at the possible escape routes of attackers while Philippine Army personnel in the area has also called for reinforcement.

Before the simultaneous attacks, the rebels allegedly knocked out communication facilities of the two island towns. (Balita Pinoy - Philippine News & Analysis)

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