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Seven soldiers, including an officer, and five rebels were killed while 16 others were injured when government troops clashed with members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Echague, Isabela, early Saturday, a military official said.

Col. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Army’s civil-military operations group, said the clash occurred in Brgy. Mabbayad around 5 a.m.

Thirty-eight members of the 52nd Division Reconnaissance Company were on combat operations when they encountered about the same number of members of the NPA’s Sandatahang Platoon Propaganda led by a certain “Mon,” Sobejana said in a phone interview.

Six soldiers, including an officer ranked 2nd lieutenant, died at the site, Sobejana said.

Helicopters later brought reinforcements and fetched nine wounded soldiers, one of whom expired at the hospital, he said.

“It’s an encounter, hindi ito ambush,” Sobejana said.

Firefight ensued for about 45 minutes, according to a statement from the 5th Infantry Division based in Gamu, Isabela.

The 5th ID identified the slain soldiers as 2Lt. Jimnah Torrepalma, Sgt. Eduardo Arguero, Cpl. Jondy Lar Ebersole, Pfc. Joemar Miguel, Pfc. Jerold Mina, Pfc. Albert Lagua, and Pfc. Raul Alunday.

Injured were Pfc. Robert Samut and seven others.

Sobejana said troops received information that five were killed and eight were wounded on the rebel side, but were unable to recover bodies.

The clash occurred just a few hours after members of the 51st Division Reconnaissance Company figured in a firefight with other NPA members in Sitio Disiguit, Brgy. Gangalan, San Mariano, around 1 a.m.

No one was reported killed or injured in the earlier clash. (John Roson)

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