Leftist rebels snatch 4 jail officers in rescuing comrade in S Philippines

13:38, July 21, 2011      

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Suspected leftist rebels seized four jail officers following an operation to rescue a comrade facing criminal charges as he was transported to a prison in southern Philippines early Thursday, military and jail officials said.

About 200 heavily armed New People's Army (NPA) rebels blocked the highway in Kitaotao town, Bukidnon province around 3:30 a.m. and stopped the vehicle carrying a detained high-ranking NPA guerrilla, said Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias, spokesperson of the government troop's 4th Infantry Division.

"The leftist rebels rescued their comrade and abducted the four jail personnel escorting the inmate," Osias told Xinhua by mobile phone.

"The BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) van was from Ozamiz City on its way to transport an NPA leader to the Davao penal colony when rebels seized it and freed the prisoner and kidnapped two jail officials and two enlisted personnel," said Osias.

Police and the military's 4th Infantry Division were having a conference to map out plans on how to respond to the incident while a pursuit operation was being conducted by soldiers from the 8th Infantry Battalion against the suspects, said Osias.

"The BJMP did not coordinate with us or with the police that they were transporting a high-value target. Nevertheless we are ready to help in the operations (to rescue the victims)," the military official said.

The NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been waging a guerrilla campaign in the countryside for more than four decades. The Philippine military estimates that there are some 4,700 NPA guerrilla fighters scattered in more than 60 provinces throughout the Southeast Asian country.

In Feburary, the Philippine government and the leftist rebels resumed in Oslo, Norway the formal peace talks, which had been suspended for six years, in a bid to bring an end to the protracted insurgency.

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