Rebels attack police station, kill 1

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Sunday, March 20, 2011


PANABO CITY -- A daring night attack by the communist rebels at the city’s main police station on Saturday resulted in the death of a policeman and the wounding of four others.

About 40 New People's Army (NPA) guerrillas, disguised as army troops, barged into the compound of the Panabo City Police Office after a downpour late Saturday then raked the police station at the back of the city hall with gun- and rifle grenade-fire, sparking a 30-minute clash, police investigator Randy Sta. Maria said.

A policeman guarding the compound gate was shot to death. Two policemen and two civilian employees were wounded in the ensuing gunbattle, which damaged the two-story station, where 17 policemen fired back from shattered windows and on the roof, he said.

"I heard bursts of heavy gunfire then somebody yelled, 'we're under attack," Sta. Maria told The Associated Press by telephone. He helped defend the station.

Other police units from the province and from the Philippine Army's 1003rd Infantry Brigade rushed to the station to reinforce, forcing the rebels to withdraw.

They left behind two vans, which got stuck in a muddy dirt road near the police station, he said.

Police identified the lone fatality as Police Officer 3 Narciso Pakiwag, the officer guarding the compound gate. Wounded were Senior Inspector Jay Demaala, the station’s commander, and police officer Arcusar Vallescas; and civilian employees Raymundo Miñoza and Larry Comodiong.

Southern Mindanao police director, Chief Supt. Pedro Tango, identified the rebel attackers as the groups of Leoncio Pitao alias Commander Parago and Lucio Bustamante alias Commander Bungot of the 1st Pulang Bagani Command of the NPA.

Panabo City is located some 32 kilometers south of Davao City. The city also borders the Paquibato district of Davao City, which is a known rebel stronghold.

The rebels have staged attacks in fringe villages of Panabo City, considered the country's banana capital due to its vast plantations. It was the first time, however, that they assaulted the main government center in the agricultural city of more than 160,000 people in Davao del Norte province.

Government and rebel negotiators last month resumed long-stalled peace talks brokered by Norway and aimed at resolving one of Asia's longest-running Marxist rebellions by 2012. The rebels, however, have pressed on with attacks and government forces continued offensives without a long-term truce.

Battle setbacks have weakened the Maoist rebels, who reached their peak in the mid-1980s, when their fighters numbered about 25,000. However, the military still regards the rebels as the country's most serious security threat after Muslim rebels and al-Qaida-linked militants in the south.

Peace talks stalled in 2004 after the rebels accused then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's government of instigating their inclusion in U.S. and European terrorist blacklists. (Sun.Star Davao/AP/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 21, 2011.

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