43 held in raid on alleged Philippine communists
Forty-three people were arrested on Saturday in a raid on a house in the northern Philippines that a military spokesman said had led to the biggest detention of suspected communist rebels in memory.world Updated: Feb 06, 2010 18:20 IST
Forty-three people were arrested on Saturday in a raid on a house in the northern Philippines that a military spokesman said had led to the biggest detention of suspected communist rebels in memory.
However, a family member of the raided house's owner said those detained were medical professionals holding a training workshop before going on aid projects in rural areas.
A military spokesman said soldiers and police raided the house in Morong town east of Manila in search of illegal firearms and found 17 men and 26 women along with two handguns, three grenades, improvised explosives and documents.
The 43 were all taken in, said Lieutenant Colonel Noel Detoyato, adding that, "I have never seen such a big group arrested. This is the biggest ever."
He said those detained were all suspected of belonging to the New People's Army (NPA), the 5,000-strong armed wing of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging a Maoist rebellion since 1969.
"From our initial investigation, it appears that they were being taught how to make explosives," Detoyato added.
However, Mary Velmonte, daughter of the house's owner, doctor Melencia Velmonte, said that as far as the family knew, the meeting was part of a medical training workshop held by a non-political group called Conmed.
"All the people who were in the house were asked to leave while the search was conducted," she told AFP.
Afterwards, the military presented explosives which they said had been found at the house, she added.