DAVAO – Communist insurgents wearing military uniforms abducted five soldiers in the southern Philippines, in the latest of a series of violent acts following the collapse of peace talks, authorities said yesterday.
The New People's Army guerrillas set up a roadblock on the outskirts of Davao City on Monday and seized the five soldiers as they were passing through on motorcycles, said military spokesman Colonel Ramon Zagala.
He condemned the abduction, saying the soldiers were unarmed, in civilian clothes and on their way to buy supplies for a community feeding program when they were seized.
“Their objective is... to try to project power, to sow fear. You are sending a clear message to the community: the people who you think can help you…this is what we can do with them,” he told AFP.
The NPA has been waging a 44-year-old Maoist armed campaign that has claimed at least 30,000 lives. The military estimates the NPA has about 4,000 fighters.
The government had been hoping to sign a pact to end the rebellion before President Benigno Aquino ended his six-year term in 2016. But the government said in April that peace talks had collapsed.
Davao, the biggest city on the southern island of Mindanao, has long been a hotbed of communist insurgency.
Three soldiers were killed on June 4 in another part of Mindanao when they stumbled into a communist guerrilla jungle training camp and walked on a landmine.
Eight police commandos died last month when communist rebels ambushed them on Luzon, the country's biggest island which is home to the nation's capital.
The latest kidnapping took place in a remote area where the army has been trying to diminish the influence of the NPA by working with local communities, according to a local military chief, Colonel Leopoldo Galon.
“This is an intrusion of the armed forces in an area they consider their bailiwick,” Galon, regional head of the military's Civil Relations Group, told AFP.
He said judging from past incidents, the rebels would likely release their hostages, but not before using them to get good publicity.
“They will get media coverage...they will use this for propaganda to the max,” he said.*AFP
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