MANILA, Philippines–Seven members of the Philippine National Police elite unit were killed and several others were wounded following an ambush staged by the New People’s Army rebels in Cagayan Monday morning, police said.
The ambush was the latest in a series of attacks by the rebels this year that have left dozens of people dead.
Inspector Cesar Orlanes, Cagayan police spokesman, said seven members of the Special Action Force died when a landmine exploded as the unit were traveling from the desolate farming land in Barangay (village) Cataratan in Allacapan to the city proper around 8:30 a.m.
The Special Action Forces is an elite police unit trained in counter-insurgency tactics that is typically involved in security operations against communist rebels.
The identities of the slain officers were still being verified.
Eight others were wounded and were taken to the Balesteros District Hospital, Orlanes said.
He said the assailants were a group of about 30 men.
PNP spokesman, Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr., said the officers were on their way to West Centro to undergo physical exam.
Cerbo said that after the landmine exploded, “they were shot by armed men” who were positioned on an elevated area.
Police were checking reports that the group belongs to the Danilo Ben Command.
The firearms of the slain policemen were taken by the group.
“Handa naman yung grupo at naka laban din. Naunahan lang talaga (The officers were prepared and were able to fight back but they were outgunned),” he said.
Authorities have launched hot pursuit operations for the possible arrest of the perpetrators, Cerbo said.
The NPA has been waging a 44-year-old Maoist armed campaign that has claimed at least 30,000 lives, according to a government estimate.
The government said in April peace talks with the communists had collapsed and a target of ending the insurgency by 2016 was impossible to achieve.
The NPA, which is believed to have about 4,000 fighters, has conducted a series of high-profile attacks this year.
The deadliest occurred in January, when nine police and security forces were killed in another ambush. Last month rebels also killed two aides of a town mayor who is a member of President Benigno Aquino III’s Liberal Party. With a report from Agence France Presse