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DAVAO CITY, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Members of the New People’s Army (NPA) abducted two soldiers in Columbio town in Sultan Kudarat on Thursday morning, February 2, a military official said.
Captain Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division, said in an initial statement that the two soldiers from 39th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army were abducted “by armed men suspected to be members of the New People’s Army” at around 7:30 am on Thursday, in Barangay Dela Paz in Columbio town.
He confirmed the suspects to be communist rebels in a later statement.
Batchar told Rappler the two soldiers – a corporal and a private whose names have been withheld pending notification of their families – were riding a motorbike and were unarmed when a group of armed men threw stones at them as they passed Barangay Dela Paz, prompting them to stop.
Batchar said the soldiers were headed to the headquarters in Makilala, North Cotabato, to process their reenlistment.
“The 10th Infantry Division condemns the NPA for kidnapping two enlisted men of 39th Infantry Battalio….The NPA is showing complete disregard of its own earlier pronouncement that its unilateral ceasefire is in effect until February 10, by continuously committing atrocities against soldiers and civilians,” he said.
“The 10ID demands the immediate release of our soldiers. We further urge the CPP to order the NPA to immediately stop committing criminal acts victimizing the people that could imperil the peace negotiations,” he added.
Columbio Mayor Amir Musali is holding a crisis management committee meeting with army officers and the Municipal Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Council (MDRRMC).
Musali told Rappler that the abducted soldiers “were brought to the fields.”
Batchar said the military in the area is on “heightened alert.”
“We have instructed our line units to be vigilant and maintain proactive measures avoiding the said incident from happening again,” he said.
The incident happened a day after the NPA announced that it would terminate its ceasefire with the government on February 10.
Government peace negotiators want President Rodrigo Duterte to maintain the government’s unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels. (READ: Gov’t panel seeks to reinstate ceasefire, NDF commits to talks)
On January 29 or days before the NPA’s announcement, communist rebels abducted a soldier, Private First Class Erwin Salan, as he led a forest clean-up drive in Alegria, Surigao del Norte. – Rappler.com