07/03/2008, 00.00
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Protestant pastor killed as Maoist violence escalates in Mindanao

The wave of violence unleashed by the NPA is not stopping: in Mindanao, a bomb kills three people in a bakery and wounds another 12. On Tuesday, the body was found of a Protestant pastor accused of collaborating with the military.

Manila (AsiaNews) - The escalation of violence continues between soldiers of the government army and communist guerrillas, who killed the pastor of a Protestant church, kidnapped last May and subjected to barbarous torture before being killed.

This morning, shortly before dawn, rebels exploded a bomb at a bakery in Nabunturan, a town in the southern island of Mindanao: according to local police sources, the attack killed three and wounded 12.  Last Tuesday, soldiers found the corpse of Josefino Estaniel, a Protestant pastor who was killed because he was thought to have collaborated with security forces involved in sweeping raids to flush out the rebels of the communist New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Filipino communist party.

According to statements from lieutenant colonel Kurt Decapia, a local army spokesman, soldiers found the pastor's lifeless body in a hole dug near the village of Dalagdag, near the city of Davao, believed by the military to be one of the strongholds of the NPA.  On Tuesday evening, some of the inhabitants led soldiers to the exact spot where the 45-year-old pastor, a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, was buried.  The remains of the pastor - who was kidnapped last May on the orders of rebel leader Leoncio Pitao - were already "in a state of decomposition", while the hole in which he was buried is only "two kilometres from the place where the kidnapping occurred".  On the basis of the report produced by the police, the pastor was subjected to violence and torture before being killed.

General Leo Fojas, commander of the tenth infantry division, forcefully condemned the atrocities committed by fighters of the NPA, and the killing of the Protestant pastor. (SD)

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