Army, Islamic fighters clash; 1 dead-A A +A
Sunday, January 13, 2013
KORONADAL CITY - Government troops clashed with around 40 armed men in the remote coal-rich village of Ned in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, leaving a militiaman dead, the military said Sunday.
1Lt. Betheul N. Barber, public affairs officer of the 27th Infantry Battalion, said the firefight ensued after government troops responded to report from civilians that armed men have been sighted in the area.
Barber said the armed men allegedly belong to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the armed wing of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement.
The BIFF is a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is negotiating for a peace accord with the Philippine government.
The BIFF was established in 2010 by former MILF commander Ameril Umbra Kato who bolted out of the group due to the ideological difference with top MILF officials.
The government troops have been deployed in the area two days before the firefight that occurred at around 5:50 a.m. Saturday, Barber said.
Barber identified the slain militiaman as Rene Amar Pernal, his body was recovered at around 8:40 p.m., or around 15 hours after the encounter started.
A member of the 7th Cafgu Active Auxiliary of South Cotabato, Pernal was brought to the military patrol base in Brangay Ned, about four kilometers from the encounter site, he said.
Barber said the military has still no information if the armed group also suffered fatalities.
2Lt. Angelo Peralta, team leader of the troops that encountered the armed men, said the clash occurred in Ned's sitio Kumilat.
Peralta said they were conducting active defense patrol when the armed men fired at them.
He said a certain Udtog and Mod, both from Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat led the group.
Barber said additional troops were deployed on Saturday aboard a helicopter due to the remote location of the area.
Another team was deployed Sunday also through a helicopter ride to help in the clearing operation in the clash site, Barber said.
Barber said the armed men could have been around for quite some time in the area, noting that Barangay Ned "has been the highway of armed men going towards Maitum in Sarangani."
Last year, military officials in South Cotabato said the New People’s Army was trying to establish a presence in Barangay Ned.
San Miguel Energy Corp., a unit of San Miguel Corp., has set up a base camp in Barangay Ned in a bid to extract massive coal deposits in the area.
Studies showed that the Daguma Mountain Range, which straddles Ned, contains coal resources of 426 million metric tons.
Initial exploration and drilling has blocked 55 million metric tons of minable reserves in 526 hectares of the mountain range.
San Miguel had announced plans to build a coal-fired power plant with Ned as the source of raw material. (Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 14, 2013.