AT least six policemen were killed and 10 others were wounded when they were ambushed by a large number of New People’s Army rebels on a hinterland road in the poor farming town of Baggao, in Cagayan Tuesday.
Early reports said a police convoy led by Supt. Agpasid and Sr. Insp. Balisi (no first names were available) were going uphill when they were fired upon by about 40 heavily armed insurgents led by David Soriano at Kilometer 19 in Barangay Sta. Margarita at 10 a.m.
Reports said two officers were among those slain, all members of the Regional Public Safety Battalion assigned in Cagayan province, while one of the wounded was identified as PO1 Layugan.
Major Gen. Lysander Suerte, commander of the Army’s 5th Infantry Division based in Isabela, said six were killed and eight were seriously wounded in the initial volley of gunfire.
“They employed improvised explosive device that blew up one of the forward troopers,” Suerte said.
The police were responding to a distress call from a private contractor on a government irrigation project, who said the rebels had burned their construction equipment and fired upon them over the weekend, after they refused to pay a “revolutionary tax” to the communist insurgents.
A firefight broke out with Army troopers from the 52nd Division Reconnaissance Company and the 17th Infantry Battalion, and police from the Provincial Public Safety Battalion joining the fight.
Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento said the policemen were pinned down by the barrage of gunfire from the rebels.
“We were hit hard by the first burst of fire,” he said.
The Philippine Air Force Tactical Operations Group sent two helicopter gunships to provide air cover to the beleaguered cops and to engage the rebels.
Reports said the rebels scattered after the choppers unleashed a barrage of machine-gun fire.
Sarmiento had asked Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to send choppers with night-flying capability to pursue the rebels.
It was not immediately clear if the rebels suffered casualties, officials said.
The 4,000-strong NPA has been waging a 46-year-long guerrilla campaign in the countryside and the conflict has claimed 30,000 lives, according to official estimates.
The military says the group sustains itself by extorting money from businesses and from candidates during election campaigns.
Repeated efforts by successive governments to arrange peace talks have failed to end one of the world’s longest-running communist insurgencies.
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