Military launches airstrikes on alleged NPA lair in Northern Samar

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) attacked what it said was a "confirmed encampment" of the New People's Army (NPA) on Saturday morning, October 26, in a remote area of Barangay Caputoan, Las Navas, Northern Samar.

Supersonic FA-50 jets from the Philippine Air Force carried out "surgical airstrikes," dropping 500-pound bombs on what was believed to be the lair of around 50 NPA rebels led by a certain Ceriaco Jerusalem aka CADO, the AFP said in a statement late Sunday, October 27.

Jerusalem's group of insurgents had been extorting money from different communities in Northern Samar, said Major General Pio Diñoso III, commander of the Philippine Army's 8th Infantry Division and Joint Task Force Storm, which led Saturday's attack.

No bodies were recovered from the site. However, bloodstains found on the path through which the rebels escaped "indicate heavy casualties," the military said. Soldiers from the Army's 803rd Infantry Brigade were sent to track down the guerrillas.

Among items recovered from the encampment were live ammunition for shotguns and automatic rifles, land mines, blasting caps, improvised grenades, and communication equipment.

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the military to end the communist insurgency after failed attempts at peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA.

The Duterte administration has instead pushed for "localized peace talks" through the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), created in December 2018. The idea is to hold negotiations between local government units and local fronts of the communist rebels.

The CPP-NPA-NDF rebellion started in 1969 and is now Asia's longest-running insurgency. It had about 25,000 guerrillas at its peak in the late 1980s, but its numbers have since dwindled to about 4,000. The fighting between government forces and the rebels have have killed thousands.

Rappler sought further comment and detail from the AFP but it has yet to respond to our queries as of posting time.

After Saturday's airstrikes, Diñoso credited reports from civilians about intimidation and extortion by the guerrillas. He urged the rebels to surrender voluntarily and resume normal lives. – with a report from Jazmin Bonifacio/Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.

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