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In Guihulngan City; Soldiers hunting NPA rebels down

DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines — Army troops of the 79th Infantry Battalion are now tracking down the whereabouts of 20 armed men, including a woman, who were reported to have arrived in Guihulngan City in northern Negros Oriental on Wednesday afternoon.

The arrival of the unidentified armed group in Guihulngan came on the same day that the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, headed by Major General Jon Aying, had activated the 600-strong 2nd Negros Island Geographical Battalion in Negros Oriental at ceremonies in Dumaguete City.

Lieutenant Colonel Roderick Garcia, 79th IB commander, on Thursday disclosed that a civilian first reported to the police the sighting of the armed group in Guihulngan, who he believed were "Communist terrorists."

Garcia said he deployed his troops immediately after receiving the information to validate the report and are now conducting operations in the hinterlands of Guihulngan.

A police report on Thursday also corroborated the Army report that around 3:10 p.m. Wednesday, a group of about 20 armed men, including a woman, was sighted by residents of sitio Matu-og at Barangay Basak in Guihulngan.

The armed group, wearing camouflage fatigue were on board two pumpboats that docked at the shoreline of Matu-og, according to a report from the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office (NORPPO).

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The report also said the unidentified armed men walked across the national highway going to the hinterlands of Barangay Binobohan and Barangay Mani-ak of Guihulngan, a city about 116.3 kilometers north of Dumaguete. They were seen carrying assorted high-powered firearms, such as M16 rifles and a machine gun, among others.

The police report further said the armed group might carry out tactical offensives against government troops, vital installations and to disrupt the upcoming fiesta celebration of Guihulngan on May 25, and the tentatively scheduled Federalism Summit there.

Garcia believed they were communist terrorists, of the New People's Army, and not the extremist kidnap-for-ransom group, Abu Sayyaf. He said the lone female in the group was overheard speaking Bisaya.

These armed men could be remnants of the NPA's South Eastern Front (SEF) operating in southern Negros Oriental, specifically in Sta. Catalina town.

Senior Supt. Henry Biñas, acting NORPPO director, said the armed group might have been pressured by the ongoing military operations in Sta. Catalina, driving them instead to Guihulngan. He said he instructed his men to be on the lookout for these armed individuals. (FREEMAN)

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