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NPA rebels attack 3 mining firms in Surigao del Norte

(Updated 4:31 p.m.) Suspected communist rebels on Monday attacked three mining firms in Surigao del Norte in a span of three hours, resulting in a number of damaged equipment, the military said. Ten dump trucks, eight backhoes, two barges and a guest house were burned in the attacks perpetrated by Guerrilla Front 16, 30 and 21 of the New People Army (NPA), according to Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias, spokesman of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division. First to be attacked was the Taganito Mining Corp at Taganito village in Claver town at around 9 a.m. Twenty minutes later, the rebels attacked the 4K Mining at Cadiano village, also in Claver. At around 12:30 p.m., a separate NPA group raided the Thpal Mining, near the compound of the Taganito Mining Corp., its sister company. The Caraga Police Regional Information Office said two officials of Taganito Mining Corp. were abducted by the rebels, although the military said it has yet to confirm the information. “We have reports on that but we cannot make an official statement due to lack of official confirmation from ground troops," Osias said. For his part, Col. Leopoldo Galon, spokesman of the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command, said about 200 rebels, clad in military and police uniforms, took part in the attacks. "The perpetrators disarmed the mining firm security personnel, gathered its employees and talked to them while others started burning some of the mining equipment," Galon said, adding that the rebels torched the equipment to block pursuing government forces. Extortion Osias said the attacks were prompted by the companies’ refusal to heed the rebels’ extortion demands. “They (rebels) do that if one refuses to pay, that is a fact," he said. Osias said they are conducting pursuit operations against the three NPA groups, which police said numbered around 200 men. Armed Forces public affairs office chief Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, meanwhile, urged mining companies to strengthen their coordination with security forces to prevent similar attacks. “We condemn these atrocious acts by the New People’s Army," Burgos said. “These are actually barriers and hindrances to development and we consider these mining firms as soft targets because they are being secured by civilian security agencies." — with Ben Serrano/KBK, GMA News