ZAMBOANGA CITY: Security forces clashed with communist rebels on Tuesday, leaving 19 people dead in Agusan del Sur. The New People’s Army rebels attacked an enclave of a private armed group in Santa Irene they accused as behind illegal activities and killings of civilians in Prosperidad town. The rebel group said only two of its fighters were killed in clashes after security forces engaged the rebels in a running gunbattle. The highway connecting the town from other areas had been closed by authorities for several hours because of the fierce fighting which also erupted in nearby areas. At least 19 bodies had been recovered in the area and most of them in military uniform. One body was still slumped inside a pick-up truck parked in front of a house when policemen and troops arrived in the village. At least 14 of the bodies were believed to be members of the NPA and four others belonged to the private army in the village. The 4th Infantry Division said it was still collating reports from ground commanders before it can release an official statement.
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