3 cops wounded, heavy equipment burned, in NPA attack in South Cotabato

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/15 August) — Three policemen were wounded while three heavy equipment were destroyed in separate attacks staged early Friday by suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in remote villages in Koronadal City and Tampakan town in South Cotabato.

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said an estimated 20 to 30 heavily armed rebels aboard a commandeered utility van initially stormed a quarry site along the Topland River in Koronadal City at around 4 a.m. Friday and torched three heavy equipment owned by a local construction company.

She said the three heavy equipment, which were deployed in a quarry site in Purok Riverside in Barangay Topland, were totally destroyed.

The suspects attempted to burn two other equipment owned by a quarry operator but failed to inflict any significant damage, she said.

About 30 minutes later, Fuentes said, two suspected rebels aboard a motorcycle lobbed a grenade at a detachment of the South Cotabato Police Public Safety Company (PPSC) in Barangay Sta. Cruz in Tampakan, injuring three policemen

“These attacks were clearly coordinated and the circumstances showed that they were the handiwork of the NPA,” the governor said in a radio interview.

Dads Bacalso, operations head of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, said the suspects reportedly came to the area aboard two utility vans.

She said 10 of the suspects initially held at gunpoint the caretaker of a quarry site operated by the construction firm of Engr. Fernando Bascon and proceeded to pour gasoline and burn the three heavy equipment that comprised a grader, loader and crusher.

The caretaker said the suspects were clad in Army fatigues, “in full battle gear” and were speaking in Cebuano or Visayan dialect, she said.

Bacalso said the suspects then turned to two other loaders owned by quarry operator Engr. Edwin Bonilla and tried to burn them but reportedly ran out of gasoline.

She said the armed men then hastily left the area aboard the utility vans, one of which was later found abandoned in Purok Randal of Sitio Tabialong in nearby Barangay Cacub.

The area is located near the boundary of Koronadal City and Columbio town in Sultan Kudarat.

Bacalso said they were assessing the damage caused by the attack but an aide of Engr. Bascon, who is an uncle of Koronadal City Mayor Peter Miguel, placed the value of the destroyed heavy equipment at around P8 million.

She said they were also verifying reports that the area’s quarry operators had received threats from an undisclosed armed group prior to the attack.

Meantime, Senior Insp. Joel Fuerte, deputy police chief of the Tampakan municipal police station, said pursuit operations are currently ongoing against the suspected NPA rebels who attacked the PPSC detachment in Barangay Sta. Cruz.

He said the operations are focused on the two motorcycle riding-in-tandem suspects who hurled the grenade.

Citing their initial investigation, the suspects used an improvised grenade in the attack that slightly injured three PPSC personnel assigned at the detachment.

“It was plain harassment and clearly meant to sow fear among local residents and those assigned at the detachment,” Fuerte added. (MindaNews)