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Reds ambush troops in Compostela; 13 killed

() - July 1, 2003 - 12:00am
ZAMBOANGA CITY – Thirteen soldiers were killed and 10 others wounded in a fierce 30-minute gunbattle yesterday with New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in a remote town of Compostela Valley province in Mindanao.

An army unit patrolling at around 1:30 p.m. in Barangay Pagsabangan in New Bataan town was ambushed by an NPA squad, triggering a firefight, Armed Forces Southern Command (Southcom) chief Maj. Gen. Roy Kyamko said.

"There were 10 killed in action, with 10 others wounded," he said.

Southcom spokesman Lt. Col. Renoir Pascu said reinforcements have been sent to the area and manhunt operations launched.

The NPA rebels suffered an undetermined number of casualty, said Col. Daniel Lucero, Armed Forces information chief.

Troops have launched a manhunt for the fleeing rebels in the mountains of New Bataan, he added.

Earlier yesterday, the military said NPA rebels killed three civilians and burned logging equipment in weekend attacks in other parts of Mindanao and the Visayas.

Amid the fighting, Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. has arrived in Amsterdam in the Netherlands to hold "back-door channel" talks with communist rebel leaders for the possible resumption of stalled peace talks.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said De Venecia, along with Tarlac Gov. Jose Yap Sr. and government peace panel chairman Silvestre Bello III are meeting with Utrecht-based rebel negotiators with the tacit approval of President Arroyo.

Bunye said Malacañang has given De Venecia the go-signal to restart peace negotiations.

"We know that the Speaker is there and his initiatives may open the door for possible resumption of the peace talks," he said. "So if that works, very well and good."

Bunye said De Venecia had "played a key role" in the government’s peace negotiations with the Moro National Liberation Front, which ended in a peace agreement with the Ramos administration in 1996.

"And I believe (De Venecia) is banking on his expertise on back room negotiations," he said. "So we hope he’s successful because earlier attempts to re-establish communications channels were rebuffed."

Bello, along with Presidential Adviser on Special Concerns Norberto Gonzales and Presidential Management Staff Secretary Silvestre Afable failed to convince communist rebel leaders to resume peace talks early this year. – Roel Pareño, Marichu Villanueva, Benjie Villa, Christina Mendez, Jaime Laude, AFP

ARMED FORCES ARMED FORCES SOUTHERN COMMAND BARANGAY PAGSABANGAN BENJIE VILLA BUNYE CHRISTINA MENDEZ COMPOSTELA VALLEY DANIEL LUCERO DE VENECIA NEW BATAAN
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