An undetermined number of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels launched a major attack early Tuesday morning in the Mindanao province of Agusan del Sur, civilians in the area said.

The rebels reportedly targeted a certain Datu Calpit who is said to be maintaining his own militiamen.

Datu Calpit is said to be engaged in gold mining operations in Sta. Irene village in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur. 

Fierce encounters were also reported in at least two more locations in the province. 

Reports said the rebels put up blocking forces in San Francisco town also in Agusan del Sur and in Sitio Hamogaway in Bayugan.

One NPA rebel was allegedly killed in Hamogaway and an M16 Armalite rifle was recovered.

NPAs in the Philippines: Asia longest-running communist insurgency. Pic: Edwin Espejo

The military source later said in a text message that the rebels left 12 dead bodies in Sta. Irene.

The same source said the rebels have already withdrawn from the area but still had to validate the identities of those killed in the attack.

Also reportedly recovered from the encounter site were three M-16 rifles and four AK-47s.

Datu Calpit was slightly wounded, according to the military spot report.

Civilians said a large numbers of armed men were killed, including alleged ‘goons’ of Datu Calpit.

Basta daghan patay, lakip na ang mga goons ni Datu Calpit,” said a civilian source who requested anonymity for security reasons. (There were many dead, including goons of Datu Calpit).

Associated Press reported that at least 18 people were killed in the clashes.

Residents said they heard loud explosions and gunfire.

There are no immediate statements from the rebel forces.

The attack came a week after NPA rebels also attacked Alegria town in Surigao del Norte.

The communist rebels overran the town’s police station but two NPAs were slain in the attack.

The NPAs however took four police officers as hostages.

Maria Malaya, spokesperson of the NPA’s North Eastern Mindanao Command, said one rebel died during the siege and another was slain when the escape truck they were riding ran out of gas along the highway where policemen caught up with them.

The Maoist-inspired NPAs have been conducting a guerrilla war in the Philippine countryside for over 45 years.

It is Asia’s longest-running communist insurgency.