Saturday was a busy day for the Communist New People’s Army (NPA) as the group launched a series of attacks in the southern Philippines, killing at least two people and wounding eight others, police and military officials said.

The first attack happened at around 5 a.m. Saturday when about 250 NPA guerrillas stormed the police station of Trento town, in Agusan del Sur province, killing two and wounding three others, including two lawmen, said Chief Superintendent Reynaldo Rafal, regional police chief for Caraga region where Agusan del Sur is located. The fatalities were civilians, Rafal said.

Rafal said the rebels attempted to overrun and capture the police station and nearby government buildings at the town proper, but were pushed back as the station' s personnel led by a female police inspector fought back. The rebels arrived onboard three Isuzu Forward trucks.

After an hour of firefight, the rebels fled, leaving behind two wounded policemen identified only as a certain Police Officer 3 Hubo and PO1 Lazarte. A civilian helper at the station, identified as Salvador Ralla Jr., was one of the two killed in the attack.
The skirmish did not end with the withdrawal of the communists. A few hours after the attack on the police, rebels ambushed a group of Army Scout Rangers in the same town.

A report from Caraga police said the elite Scout Rangers were on board a military truck pursuing the rebels who had earlier raided the Trento police station when they were waylaid by an undetermined number of NPA rebels in sitio Divisoria, barangay Langkilaan, Trento town.

A firefight ensued past 3 p.m. with still no immediate reports of casualties.
On the same day, five soldiers were wounded in a landmine blast in a village in Malita town, in Davao del Sur province, also in Mindanao, Superintendent Jose Carumba, spokesman for the police in Davao region, told Xinhua.

Carumba said the soldiers belonged to a convoy escorting what the military called a “peace and development team” when the roadside bomb exploded in a village called Little Baguio past 1 p.m., injuring the troops.

Police and military operations against the rebels are now being conducted in these areas, Carumba said.

Heightened alert

On Saturday, the Caraga police declared a “heightened alert” in Agusan del Sur following the Trento attack.

Chief Supt. Reynaldo S. Rafal, regional director of Police Regional Office 13, also ordered all chiefs of police of municipalities to spread all over region, particularly in Agusan del Sur, to strengthen their respective stations so they will not be caught flatfooted by more NPA attack.

He also ordered mobile checkpoints to be put up along the borders of Trento town and Bislig City and the towns of Trento, Monkayo, and Compostela Valley, the better to block rebels who might withdraw into the mountains of Agusan del Sur.

Police said the fleeing communist insurgents belonged to a combined force of rebels from the Front Committees 3 and 20 of the NPA and were now under “wide and massive pursuit operations” by the joint forces of the police and military.

Agusan del Sur and Davao del Sur are hotbeds of the communist insurgency in the southern Philippines. The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been waging a guerrilla campaign in the countryside for more than four decades. The Philippine military estimates that there are some 4,100 NPA guerrilla fighters scattered in more than 60 provinces throughout the country.

Peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has so far failed to end the NPA rebellion, said to be the longest running communist insurgency in the world.

The Philippine government on Friday said it was hopeful that the peace negotiations would move forward after at least three leftist leaders were released from jail in the past week. The communists, however, insist that the government needs to release more of the country’s estimated 350 political prisoners, several of them belonging to the armed underground.

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