NPA-INFLUENCED. The center of Magsaysay village in Mapanas, Northern Samar in this June 21, 2022 photo. At least seven soldiers were injured when members of the New People’s Army detonated anti-personnel mines in the village on Tuesday (July 5, 2022). (Photo courtesy of Mary Rebato)

TACLOBAN CITY – At least seven soldiers were injured when members of the New People’s Army (NPA) detonated anti-personnel mines in the upland village of Magsaysay in Mapanas, Northern Samar on Tuesday morning.

Soldiers with the community support program (CSP) team were patrolling the area when rebels detonated the mines around 6:15 a.m., said Lt. Col. Joemar Buban, commander of the Philippine Army’s 20th Infantry Battalion.

CSP is a flagship program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines used to clear communities of NPA infestation while neutralizing the politics-military structure the rebels established in the villages.

“Of the seven wounded, two of them are in critical condition. All the blast victims suffered head injuries. Casualty evacuation is still ongoing since the mountain village is far from the highway,” Buban said in a phone interview.

After the explosion, the eight soldiers who escaped the blast engaged 20 NPA fighters in a 10-minute gun battle.

The enemies fled since their firepower is weak, according to the army official.

Magsaysay village is about 13 kilometers away from the highway and the farthest community in Mapanas town. It is considered a stronghold of the communist terrorist group after soldiers managed to rid several communities in Northern Samar province of NPA threats.

About 30 NPA fighters were sighted in the hinterlands of Magsaysay, identified as the remaining active platoon in the province.

The village is a recipient of a PHP63 million road project from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process funded in 2018, but was delayed due to NPA threats.

“The fear of NPA’s extortion activities and being caught in the crossfire between government troops and armed rebels have discouraged contractors from implementing multi-million infrastructure projects meant for impoverished and conflict-stricken communities,” Buban added.

This was the second incident of NPA-detonated mines blast in Northern Samar this year.

On April 4, a roadside blast planted by the NPA killed two police officers and injured four others in San Miguel, Las Navas town.

The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The Anti-Terrorism Council also formally designated the National Democratic Front as a terrorist organization on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and inseparable part” of the CPP-NPA created in April 1973. (PNA)