(File photo)

MANILA – The operations conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) across the country from March 1 to 9 have resulted in the neutralization of 53 communist rebels and terrorist group members.

In a statement on Sunday, AFP public affairs office chief Col. Jorry Baclor said the figure includes 26 New People's Army (NPA) insurgents, 22 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists and five members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

In the same period, 46 NPA supporters also withdrew their support from the communist movement.

Baclor said the military has also recorded the surrender and seizure of 66 high-powered firearms, four anti-personnel mines, and various explosives and ammunition in the same period.

On March 1, four NPAs were killed in separate encounters with the 33rd Division Reconnaissance Company and 94th Infantry Battalion in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental.

Recovered from the fallen insurgents were two M-16 automatic rifles, two M-203 grenade launchers, two AK-47 assault rifles, and a hand grenade.

On the same day, Joint Task Force National Capital Region and law enforcement operatives captured an NPA leader known as alias "Magno" during operations in Tandang Sora, Quezon City.

He has multiple arrest warrants and has a PHP2.8 million bounty on his head.

This was followed by the combat operations of the 7th Infantry Battalion against more or less 10 NPA members in Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat on March 2, which resulted in three NPAs killed and the seizure of three M-16s, an M-653 rifle, and two hand grenades.

Three anti-personnel mines were seized in an operation conducted by the 52nd Infantry Battalion in Oras, Eastern Samar, on March 1 while an arms cache was discovered by joint elements from the 7th Infantry Division and police officers in Dinalupihan, Bataan, on March 4.

On March 9, troops from the 50th Infantry Battalion encountered around 15 NPAs in Balbalan, Kalinga, which resulted in one insurgent killed and the seizure of M-653 and M-16 rifles.

"The AFP also recorded the surrender of 17 NPA regulars facilitated by various AFP units that include 28IB (28th Infantry Battalion) in Mawab, Davao de Oro; 9IB in Bacon, Sorsogon; 39IB in Makilala, North Cotabato; 66IB in Davao de Oro; 48IB in Lupon, Davao Oriental; 83IB in Tigaon, Camarines Sur; and 43IB in Lope De Vega, Northern Samar. Notably, a ranking NPA leader in Surigao del Sur surrendered to the 3rd Special Forces Battalion yielding nine high-powered firearms. This brought to a total of 27 firearms turned over to government forces during the period," Baclor said.

In the same period, the 85th Infantry Battalion, in cooperation with local police units and the Municipal Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in General Luna and Catanauan, Quezon, facilitated the withdrawal of support from the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) of 46 mass base supporters.

Baclor added the AFP was able to neutralize five BIFF members, one of which from the BIFF- Karialin Faction (KF) who was killed in an encounter with members of the 40th Infantry Battalion in Ampatuan, Maguindanao Del Sur, on March 1.

"Meanwhile, through continuous conduct of intelligence operations by 71IB, four BIFF-KF members surrendered in Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat, turning over an M-14 rifle, (M-1) Garand rifle, an M-79 homemade grenade launcher, two RPG (rocket propelled grenades) launchers, an anti-personnel mine, unexploded ordnance, five hand grenades, three rifle grenades, and various ammunitions," he added.

Baclor also said 22 Abu Sayyaf members surrendered to the 100th Infantry Brigade in Indanan, Sulu. They also surrendered two M-16 rifles and eight M-1 Garand rifles.

"The AFP continues to observe an upward trend in the surrender of regular members and supporters of terrorist groups in the country. It may be attributed to the non-stop intelligence-based focused military operations partnered with various peace initiatives by civilian stakeholders," Baclor said. (PNA)