At least six suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members were killed when government troops assaulted an encampment of the rebel group in Natonin, Mt. Province, a military official said Sunday.

Major Gen. Rommel Gomez, commander of the Army’s 5th Infantry Division, said troops were not able to recover the bodies, but residents who helped carry the slain counted “six to seven” fatalities.

Members of the 54th Infantry Battalion were conducting “security patrols” in the mountainous area of Sitio Tappo, Brgy. Banawel, around 6 a.m. Saturday, when they encountered the rebels, Army spokesman Maj. Harold Cabunoc said.

“Kampo nila (rebels) ‘yun, may temporary camp sila, tapos na-detect and then inatake ng mga sundalo na malapit lang dun,” Gomez told reporters by phone.

About 15 rebels led by a certain Artus Talastas fired upon the soldiers, who then retaliated and engaged the enemy in a 45-minute “running gunbattle,” Cabunoc said.

Among those reported killed was a female guerilla fighter, he said, adding that no one was hurt among the government troops and civilians living in the area.

Found at the rebel encampment were an M16 rifle, rifle grenades, a pair of binoculars, a rifle scope, and various ammunition. (John Roson)

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