ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/10 April) – Suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels took a policeman as captive and carted away high-powered firearms in a raid on the police station of Tigbao, a sleepy town in Zamboanga del Sur, officials disclosed Tuesday.
Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) spokesperson Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said that around 40 rebels swooped down on the police station around 7 pm Monday and disarmed the policemen on duty.
Cabangbang said another group of rebels established a checkpoint “not far from the police station along the highway while the disarming was taking place.”
The rebels, who fled towards the nearby municipality of Lakewood, took with them Police Officer 2 (PO2) Juhali Faisal, he added.
Senior Supt. Jose Bayani Gucela, Zamboanga del Sur police director said Faisal was one of the four policemen on duty during the raid.
Gucela said the other policemen on duty were responding to a traffic accident some 10 kilometers away from the police station.
Cabangbang said Tigbao has only 23 policemen and is the second smallest police station, in terms of strength, in Zamboanga del Sur.
Lakewood has 20 policemen and is the smallest police station, he said.
Taken by the NPA rebels were eight high-powered firearms consisting of seven M-16 Armalite rifles, an M-14 rifle and a .9-mm pistol, Gucela disclosed.
Aside from their superiority in number, Gucela said the rebels caught the policemen by surprise since they were clad in fatigue uniforms and one of them even introduced himself as a military officer.
Wesmincom chief Maj. Gen. Noel Coballes has ordered the deployment of troops to assist the police in pursuing the rebels and in rescuing Faisal.
“The New People’s Army raid of the Tigbao police station is not a cause for alarm. It is a case of simple robbery with kidnapping,” Coballes said.
“We shall pursue them like common criminals and support the police operations to ensure the safe release of PO2 Faisal who was used as human shield to cover their withdrawal,” he added.
Tigbao is a 5th class town located in the central part of Zamboanga del Sur. (MindaNews)