Philippines rebel landmine injures medical personnel

Charges to be filed against New People's Army reporter, Manila, Philippines

March 3, 2014

At least 11 soldiers and five medical volunteers were hurt after a convoy of ambulances hit a landmine in the southern Philippines yesterday.

The convoy was on its way to rescue soldiers wounded in a firefight with rebels in the town of Bansalan in Davao del Sur province.

Capt. William Alfred Rodriguez of the Army’s 1002nd Brigade said the medical personnel were approaching the site of the firefight when the landmine, allegedly planted by New People's Army (NPA) rebels, exploded.

Rodriguez said four communist rebels died and several others were injured in the fighting earlier in the day.

He said the soldiers were caught in heavy rebel fire that lasted for about an hour before the NPA withdrew. "In the course of their maneuver, the troops hit a landmine," Rodriguez said.

Col. Marcos Norman Flores, commander of the Army's 1002nd Brigade said the incident was a "clear and grave" violation of human rights and international humanitarian law”.

Flores said the military will file charges against Menandro Villanueva, head of the Communist rebels’ Southern Mindanao Regional Party Committee, who allegedly ordered the attack on the medical personnel.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, military spokesman, said described the incident as a "desperate attack."

"It is clearly stated in the [agreement between the government and the rebels] that the use of landmines is prohibited to prevent damage to civilians," Zagala said.

The communist New People's Army has been designated a "foreign terrorist organization" by the US State Department and as a terrorist group by the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy.