By Edwin O. Fernandez
MAKILALA, North Cotabato, (PNA) –- The military here has launched pursuit operations against a band of communist New Peoples Army (NPA) who ambushed Monday morning a convoy of military vehicles in nearby Tulunan, North Cotabato.
Lt. Nasrullah Sema, speaking for the 57th Infantry Battalion, said about 50 heavily armed NPAs planted and set off a land mine along a dirt road in Barangay Batuan at about 9:00 a.m. as the Army convoy was passing by.
He said the soldiers were carrying funds for the honorarium and allowances of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit when the ambush occurred.
“First, a land mind exploded then the NPAs fired at our troops,” Sema said, adding that the Army suffered wounded and killed in action.
He refused to name the wounded and slain soldiers as the Army is yet to inform their nearest next of kin.
Witnesses said at least seven soldiers were killed, including an Army captain but Sema said he is still verifying the report.
The ambush site was in Barangay Batuan, Tulunan, North Cotabato, near the boundary of North Cotabato and Davao del Sur where the NPAs have strong presence.
Sema said an Army truck from 57th IB, one from the 602nd army brigade and another military truck from the 38th Infantry Battalion, were heading toward Barangay Bituan at 9 a.m. when a land mine went off along a dirt road.
“We are still pursuing the ambushers,” Sema told reporters, adding that what he had was sketchy report about the incident.
He said the ambush took place when the soldiers went to the area not to conduct military offensive against the NPAs but to pay the paramilitary troops.
Civilians in the area said the armed men took a huge bag believed to be the money for CAFGUs allowances and several firearms.