6 bodies from Samar boat blast retrieved

Retrieval teams found four more human remains off Tarangnan waters in Samar bringing to six the total number of dead bodies from the boat that exploded during a recent sea encounter between government troops and a group of 10 suspected New People’s Army rebels which reportedly included NPA leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.

Major General Edgardo de Leon, commander of Armed Forces of the Philippines Joint Task Force Storm, said the six include three males, two females, and one undetermined
It was not known if two of the retrieved remains belong to the Tiamzon couple.

“It’s not really easy to find the cadavers because they have been stranded in different places due to the strength of the waves. But with the help of fishermen and residents, they are seen and retrieved.

The remains are in an advanced stage of decomposition so it is better to bury them immediately for health and sanitation reasons,” said De Leon, who went on aerial reconnaissance aboard an Airforce Blackhawk helicopter to see for himself the extent of the area where the search and retrieval efforts are ongoing.

Floating bodies
Reports said two of the four dead bodies were found floating off the waters in Barangay Baras, Tarangnan, Samar at around 9 a.m. on 26 August by personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard, Tarangnan police, Samar PNP Maritime Station, Armed Forces of the Philippines Joint Task Force Storm, and Tarangnan Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office.

Another decomposing human body part was later retrieved at around 11 a.m. in Barangay San Vicente, Libacun Daku, Tarangnan, and immediately buried at the municipal cemetery after a post-mortem examination.

A woman’s dead body was retrieved off the seawaters of Barangay Buenavista, Sto. Niño town in Samar.

Captain Ryan Layug, the JTF Storm spokesperson, said most of the retrieved cadavers have blown up upper bodies.

Layug, in a media statement Saturday, said this could have been because of the configuration of boats common in Samar wherein the luggage area is normally on the chest level of passengers, whether they are seated or standing inside the boat.

He said the NPA rebels, who were then transporting explosive components, could have placed their stuff on that portion of the boat.

“Inside the boat, the items are usually placed at the level of the passengers. There is a great possibility that when the explosive components carried by the suspected NPA terrorists detonated, their upper bodies were hit because the trajectory of the blast is usually upward,” he added.

Communist insurgency
De Leon said the military will continue to run after NPA rebels in Eastern Visayas to end the communist insurgency.

“This is the request of the residents here in Samar to stop the NPA’s collection of “butaw” from the farmers. Despite our offensive, the government’s door remains open to NPA terrorists who want to convert and change their lives,” he said.

The Tiamzon couple was reported to be with more or less eight armed NPA rebels onboard a motorboat on the way to Buri Island when they figured in a clash with government troops on two boats, conducting interdiction operations at around 4:20 a.m. on 22 August.

The NPA group’s boat exploded during the exchange of gunfire.

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