5 soldiers slain, wounded in Aurora ambush

Jaime Laude - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Two soldiers were killed in an ambush by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Aurora on Tuesday.

Pfcs. Ken Lester Sasapan and Jackson Mallari of the 91st Infantry Battalion (IB) were assisting in the distribution of cash assistance under the social amelioration program (SAP) to residents affected by the enhanced community quarantine due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in Barangay Diaat in Maria Aurora town when they were waylaid.

Army spokesman Col. Ramon Zagala said three soldiers were also wounded in the ambush that triggered a gunfight that lasted for almost an hour.

“We mourn the death of Pfc. Sasapan and Pfc. Mallari whose demise were caused by the treachery of NPAs capitalizing on the assistance provided by soldiers to communities in line with the distribution of the SAP,” Army chief, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay said yesterday.

On Monday, three Army troopers, including an officer, were killed while four others were wounded in an encounter with NPA guerrillas in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental.

Soldiers of the 94th IB were also securing the distribution of cash assistance when they encountered the rebels in Sitio Tugas in Barangay Carabalan, Col. Inocencio Pasaporte, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said.

In Ilocos Sur, government troopers clashed with around 30 NPA guerrillas on Mt. Odacowan at the border of Barangays Lamag and Patiacan in Quirino town, also on Tuesday. 

No one was reported hurt in the firefight that lasted for about half an hour.

Lt. Col. Rodrigo Mariñas, 81st IB, said soldiers were supposed to provide security to social workers handing out cash aid, also under SAP, when they were fired at.

Soldiers said they received information on the presence of communist rebels in the area.

The Central Command (Centcom) was placed on alert amid recent attacks by communist insurgents.

“Kaliwa’t kanan ang atake... sa mga barangay during the distribution of relief goods,” Capt. Eduardo Prescioso, Centcom spokesman, said.

Prescioso said Centcom units should be on guard against anyone who would take advantage of the national health emergency.

NPA leader killed

In Agusan del Norte, NPA leader Kevin Caballero was killed in an encounter with government troopers in Barangay Bangayan in Kitcharao town on Monday.

The Eastern Mindanao Command said an M14 rifle, a grenade launcher, a landmine switch kit and subversive documents were among those recovered from the fatality.

The clash occurred shortly after soldiers overran an NPA camp and arrested three NPA rebels, also in Barangay Bangayan.

Government troopers also rescued a nine-year-old boy from the communist insurgents.

The military said an AK47 rifle was recovered following another skirmish with the rebels. – With Artemio Dumlao, Iris Hazel Mascardo/The Freeman, Edith Regalado 

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