Three foreign nationals were seen with New People’s Army (NPA) members during the deadly clash between government troops and the rebel group in Echague, Isabela, the military said Tuesday.

Col. Loreto Magundayao, spokesman of the Army’s 5th Infantry Division based in Gamu, said civilians first reported seeing the foreigners, comprised of an oriental-looking person and two caucasians.

Military intelligence personnel later “validated” the report, but said the three foreigners were all caucasians, Magundayao said in a phone interview.

It was not immediately known what the foreigners were doing at the encounter site, but Magundayao said the military received reports that they members of a non-government organization conducting a “medical mission” or a community forum.

One of the foreigners was reportedly injured, Magundayao said.

It was also not clear if the foreigner was hurt during the 5 a.m. clash between members of the 52nd Division Reconnaissance Company (52nd DRC) and NPA in Brgy. Mabbayad on Saturday.

“Naispatan nila (civilians) siguro after the encounter… along the route of withdrawal, baka nakita ng mga nagtatanim ng mais, kasi ngayon nagtatanim na ‘yung mga tao ng mais sa area na ‘yan, maliwanag na noon,” Magundayao said.

Seven members of the 52nd DRC were killed while eight others were injured during the clash. The military said it also received reports that five were killed and eight were wounded among the rebels.

Magundayao called on the NPA to bring out their dead and wounded members.

“Hinihikayat namin sila na, kung may wounded man sila, ilabas nila at gagamutin ng Armed Forces, may ospital naman kami dito, tutulungan sila. Kung may mga patay naman sila, ilabas nila, para naman makilala ng kanilang mga mahal sa buhay at mabigyan ng disenteng pagburol,” he said. (John Roson)

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