Philippine troops clashed yesterday with communist rebels in the south, leaving eight rebels and a soldier dead, officials said. The fighting erupted after patrolling troops encountered some 40 New People’s Army rebels in southern Compostela Valley province, said army spokesman Capt. Alexandre Cabales.
The guerrillas later fled, leaving behind the bodies of eight rebels and six high-powered guns. A wounded soldier died on the way to a hospital, he said.
On Monday, troops in the same province captured a camp of the rebels, who have been waging one of Asia’s longest- running Marxist insurgencies.
The violence happened despite a statement by officials and rebel peace negotiators that they would suspend offensives to allow troops to focus on quelling a bloody siege by Islamic State group-aligned militants that in southern Marawi city.
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday that the disastrous siege may end in 10 to 15 days but warned that the threat posed by the brutal group will continue to plague the country.
Duterte also said he would try again this week to travel to Marawi city to be with government troops but acknowledged that bad weather and the danger posed by the militants’ deadly firepower have frustrated his travel plans.
“I think in 10 to 15 days it’ll already be OK,” Duterte said of the protracted urban battle with the militants, whose supply of weapons has surprised him.
“But remember the new scourge is ISIS, it will continue to haunt us,” he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group, in a speech before business executives.
After 50 days of ground assaults and airstrikes, troops have recaptured most areas of the city, with the death toll recently surpassing 500.
Security officials received intelligence about the planned attack days before the unprecedented Marawi siege unfolded, but they, along with the president, have acknowledged they underestimated the militants’ firepower. MDT/AP