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Troops seal off Surigao island to search for rebels

Surigao del Norte (8 July) -- The Philippine military sealed off a tiny island Monday (June 30) to hunt for rebels after clashes on a nearby resort isle left 11 people dead, a military spokesman said.

More than 20 left-wing rebels fled to the southern island of Lapinigan after they raided Siargao, a popular surfing isle that attracts foreign tourists, on Sarurday night, officials said.

The raid sparked deadly clashes with government forces that killed two policemen and nine guerrillas, according to the military. Five policemen were also wounded, with no reports of civilian casualties.

"After the clash in Siargao, they (the rebels) used five rubber boats to escape," said regional military spokesman Armand Rico.

"Three reached Claver while two landed at Lapinigan," the major said.

Soldiers are searching for the smaller group on Claver while Lapinigan has been quarantined as government forces attempt to corner the New People's Army (NPA) rebels there, he said.

Firefights have erupted between the two sides, he said.

"We arrested five communists terrorists, while the rest have been condoned off," Rico said.

"We estimate that 20-plus are on Lapinigan. We are using air assets to trace their location," added Rico.

The NPA is the 5,000 member armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. It has been waging a 39-year Maoist armed campaign across the country. (AFP/PIA-Caraga)

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