Communist guerrillas killed three police officers and wounded three others in an ambush Thursday, a day after the Philippine government announced the capture of five guerrilla leaders, a police report said.
The officers were aboard a vehicle travelling on a highway near Lupi town in the eastern province of Camarines Sur when they were attacked by about 20 gunmen believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA), the report said.
The policemen were part of a police escort for Nela Charade Puno, the director of the Food and Drug Administration, whose party was on its way to a nearby province. Puno was apparently not harmed, authorities said.
The police vehicle was initially hit by a blast from an improvised explosive device before the rebels opened fire, according to the government-run Philippine News Agency, which cited investigators. It said the wounded officers fought back, preventing the rebels from taking away their rifles.
Police in the area “were able to immediately respond to the area and retaliate, thereby suppressing the enemy and preventing further damages, casualties,” the report said.
It identified those killed as police officers Percival Rafael, Carlito Navarroza and Ralph Jason Vida.
The attack came a day after the military announced the capture of five senior communist rebel leaders who were allegedly involved in an October plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte.
Among those caught was Adelberto Silva, a consultant for the underground Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and Edical Legaspi, a rebel leader in the northern Philippines, the military said.
The military did not explain what roles the captured rebel leaders were to play in the alleged ouster plot codenamed “Red October,” which involved Duterte’s ouster in a conspiracy involving the CPP and some political figures.
The alleged plot, however, has largely been discredited and denied by opposition figures.
Tens of thousands have been killed since 1969 when the CPP and its NPA armed wing began what is now Asia’s longest-running insurgency.