BANGUED, Abra—Additional police and military forces have been deployed in the boundaries of the provinces of Abra, Mountain Province and Kalinga to pursue and block retreating communist rebels following a series of encounters in the area last week, a senior police official said on Sunday.
Sr. Supt. Virgilio Laya, Abra provincial police director, said troops have been deployed in remote villages to intercept the rebels after 11 people, including two soldiers, were killed in clashes in the mountain barangay of Guinguinabang, Lacub town last week.
“We have deployed blocking forces in the area. We want to neutralize their operation in the Cordillera region,” Laya said.
Abra is one of the longest held strongholds of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the Cordillera region. At least seven rebels and two civilians were killed in encounters last Thursday and Friday in Guinguinabang and the rebels have been on the run.
Laya said the soldiers arrested a woman guerrilla, Regina Marie Gustilo, 22, from Caloocan City and confiscated from her a Colt M-16 Armalite rifle with a long magazine loaded with 10 rounds of ammunition.
He said after the fighting on Thursday second gun battle occurred when rebels ambushed troops escorting civilians carrying the body of a rebel from Guinguinabang to the Poblacion.
“They were fired upon by a still undetermined number of communist rebels and it resulted in a fierce running gun battle,” Laya said.
He said the troops were conducting massive hot pursuit operations and “we want to neutralize their presence in remote communities to stop their harassment and extortion activities.”
Gov Eustaquio Bersamin said the clashes were a setback to government efforts to persuade the NPA to return to mainstream society and enjoy a peaceful life instead of running away from the long arms of the law.
“We will not allow the minor setbacks to derail our aggressive campaign towards lasting peace in the province. We want Abra to be known as a peaceful community with peace-loving and God-fearing people,” Bersamin said.