Five police officers were killed while another was injured when they were waylaid by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels at a remote village in Rizal town in the northern Philippine province of Cagayan on Sunday afternoon, the military confirmed on Monday.
Col. Loreto Magundayao, spokesman of the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Division, said a group of police officers, led by the Rizal town’s police chief, Antonio Rueco, were waylaid by some 30 suspected NPA militants while aboard a vehicle at around 03:00 pm Sunday at the village of Illuro Sur. The militants detonated a landmine first before unleashing a volley of gun fire on them, which resulted to the death of Rueco and four others.
Another policeman was initially reported missing in action but was later found by authorities, Magundayao said, adding that the policeman, who may have been able to jump from the vehicle and take cover, is currently undergoing debriefing.
Magundayao said government troops are aiding forces from the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force in pursuing the ambushers.
“The pursuit operations is ongoing while authorities continue to gather evidence in preparation for the filing of charges,” said Magundayao.
The official denounced the use of landmines in the attack, adding that these are prohibited by international laws.
The incident was the first attack resulting to multiple casualties since the Philippine government and the leftist rebels agreed on January 18 in Oslo, Norway to resume formal peace talks — suspended since 2004 — from February 15 to 21.
The NPA has been waging a guerrilla campaign in the countryside for more than four decades. The Philippine military estimates that there are some 4,700 NPA guerrilla fighters scattered in more than 60 provinces throughout the country.
Peace talks between the Philippine government and the leftists bogged down in 2004 after the United States included the NPA and its parent body as foreign terrorist organizations.