An aerial photo of the pickup owned by mining firm TVI. Suspected NPA members burned the vehicle after disarming and briefly holding the soldiers riding it. (Photo by the Army 102nd Brigade)

Suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members blocked a vehicle owned by a mining company in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur, early Saturday and disarmed the soldiers on board.

Lieutenant Col. Randolph Cabangbang, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command spokesman, said six soldiers, including two officers, were riding a Mitsubishi Strada pick-up borrowed from TVI Resource Development Philippines (TVIRD) when flagged down by 30 to 40 armed men in Sitio Mahayahay, Brgy. Guinoman, around 7:25 a.m.

“It was an ‘intelligence mission’ so they have to use a civilian vehicle,” Cabangbang said.

TVIRD is the local operating arm of TVI Pacific, a Canadian mining firm operating a copper mine Zamboanga del Norte.

The armed men, disguised in military uniform and some in media outfit, confiscated three M16 rifles, an M14 rifle, five caliber-.45 pistols, and a caliber-.9mm pistol from the soldiers, Cabangbang said.

The soldiers were interrogated and were released, but one of the officers escaped and was chased by the armed group, he said, adding that the officer remains missing while the five others are now at a nearby detachment.

The armed men burned the pick-up before withdrawing towards the boundary of Bayog and Diplahan, Zamboanga Sibugay, Cabangbang said. (John Roson)

– end –