By Kathleen Mae Bulquerin
War materials were recovered by an army unit of the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) after an encounter with members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the province of Isabela on 7 August.
The firefight erupted at 12:05 p.m. as the 95th Infantry Battalion (95IB) of the 502nd Brigade, under the Joint Task Force (JTF) “TALA” of the 5th Infantry Division, engaged the NPA in Echague, Isabela.
About 20 NPA members scampered for their lives after an hour and a half of firefight.
Recovered from the site were five M16 rifles, two bandoleers for M16, two rifle grenades, three improvised explosive device (IED), four detonating cords, seven blasting caps, one motorola handheld radio, one power saw, seven backpacks with personal belongings, two cellphones, assorted medicines and medical paraphernalia and subversive documents.
Relentless combat operations resulted in a skirmish in the morning and the seizing of the terrorist encampment last 4 July.
Bomb couriers apprehended
In North Cotabato, meanwhile, troops of the 7th Infantry Battalion and M’lang Municipal Police Station neutralized two bomb couriers in a shootout early morning of 8 August at Barangay Sangat, M’lang, North Cotabato.
The duo, aboard a motorcycle and carrying a paper bag, was flagged down at a checkpoint as they were acting suspicious.
When the troops approached to check them, they attempted to flee and one suspect drew a firearm and shot at the troops.
The resulting shootout neutralized the suspected bomb couriers.
Found in the suspects’ possession were a calibre .45 pistol loaded with ammunition and an IED found inside the paper bag.
“The bomb couriers are believed to be members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who are trying to plot a bomb terror attack in the province of North Cotabato,” 6th Infantry Division Commander Brig. Cirilito Sobejana said.
“We are thankful to the concerned and vigilant citizens that provided information that this terror group is planning to transport IED in North Cotabato,” Sobejana added.
The PNP Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team immediately arrived in the area and successfully disrupted the IED, which was composed of a 60-mm mortar shell with a cellphone triggering device.
The identities of the suspects are still to be verified by the investigation team of the PNP.
Last Sunday and Monday (5 and 6 August), two bomb scares rocked M’lang town when two unidentified men left paper bags containing IEDs in front of mini stores in Barangays Bagongtapay and Poblacion.
The improvised bombs were successfully disrupted by the PNP EOD team without causing harm to the residents in the area.
17 more surrender
Members of Milisyang Bayan(MB) and supporters of the NPA in Ifugao surrendered to the local government unit and NOLCOM army units on 6 August.
Six more members of the MB and 11 NPA supporters yielded to authorities at 9 a.m. while a Community Dialogue was being conducted by the 54th Infantry Battalion (54IB) of 503rd Brigade under JTF “TALA” of the 5th Infantry Division held at MSWD Center, Tinoc Town Hall, Tinoc, Ifugao.
The event was attended and witnessed by Tinoc Mayor Marcelo G. Catalino, Vice Mayor Efren A. Tacio, Sangguniang Bayan members and Punong Barangays of Tokucan, Luhong and Danggo, all of Tinoc, Ifugao.
Earlier, on 4 August, 14 MB members and six NPA supporters had yielded in the adjacent town of Asipulo to the same army unit conducting a Grand Caravan and Community Support Activities, where an M16 rifle was also surrendered.