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Bus torched by suspected NPAs

MAKILALA, North Cotabato (PNA) – Just hours after the government and Communist rebels agreed to revive derailed peace talks, a group of suspected New People’s Army (NPA) insurgents burned a passenger Monday on a highway in Barangay San Vicenter here.

Authorities said that YBL unit bearing body no. 1888 was heading towards Davao City from Tacurong City when it was flagged down by six men, described to be between 18–20 years old.

The men quickly boarded the bus, pulled out handguns and declared they were NPA members before the 30 terrified passengers.

The bus driver, identified as Victor Serondo, said the group ordered him to maneuver some 50 meters away from the highway to Sitio Bagong Silang in the same village, where he and the passengers were ordered by the armed men to disembark.

The armed men quickly opened gasoline-filled containers from their backpacks and set the bus on fire.

The suspects fled from the scene aboard five get-away motorcycles.

Responding authorities said the bus driver, conductor, two bus inspectors and all the bus passengers were not harmed during the incident.

Joint police and military roadblocks were immediately set up along the Makilala highway as pursuit operations were launched.

Local officials condemned the incident, especially since it happened just as the peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) had gone back on-track after backchannel talks in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

The two parties announced Sunday that they were going to resume the talks in Oslo, Norway early next month.

Makilala is one of the towns in North Cotabato where the NPA rebels are often sighted.