The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - Over 500 residents fled their homes in scenic Surallah, South Cotabato after intense fighting between New People's Army (NPA) rebels and government troops that started Thursday, an Army official said.
Capt. William Alfred Rodriguez, civil-military operations officer of the Army's 1002nd Brigade, said the soldiers also arrested five rebels during the clashes.
Soldiers were acting on a complaint from residents of Surallah that supposed NPA rebels were extorting the people in the area.
"We received complaints that some of the indigenous peoples were being forced to attend meetings and dialogues with the NPA; others were extortion victims and some rebels were taking food from poor farmers,” Rodriguez said.
At least 70-80 percent of the community comprises indigenous peoples, he added.
In a clash with around 30 rebels, soldiers arrested five alleged NPA members,whom they identified as Julius Amahado, who was also wounded, Genevic Sundo, Michelle Nuay Ligar, Aldrin Condiman and Jonicel Castillo Panalisan.
The clashes forced the evacuation of over 100 families or 525 residents to the Colongolo National High School.