MANILA: About 20 armed men believed to be insurgents ambushed, before dawn, a truckload of policemen and village guards in the central Philippine province of Negros Occidental.
The gunmen fired nearly 300 rounds of ammunition using automatic weapons, killing nine people and wounding seven others, according to radio reports quoting officials in the province.
One of the men who got killed was a policeman, while the rest were mostly village guards, who had joined the police in protecting a village dance festival held late Saturday in Mount Kanlaon.
Provincial Police Chief Celestino Guara told The Associated Press that the policemen, who were travelling back to the main police station in La Castellana town when the encounter happened at the foothills of Mount Kanlaon, managed to return fire but there were just too many gunmen at the opposite side.
He said the attackers might have been members of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which has been waging a war against the government for about four decades.
Other sources said the attackers could have been members of an illegal logging group, as suspected illegal loggers killed a forest ranger in the area last year.
Some areas in Negros Occidental, which used to be the sugar bowl of Asia, are rife with insurgents espousing Maoist ideals. There are also armed groups controlled by politicians, warlords, and powerful families.
Sunday’s attack happened also within the 150-day ban on the carrying of licensed firearms outside residences imposed by government in connection with the May 13 congressional and local elections.
Authorities say there are more than 500,000 unlicensed firearms in the country, as compared to more than 1 million a few years ago.
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