NPA RAIDS PICOP, CARTS AWAY 87 FIREWARMS

Surigao del Sur, March 22, 2003 -- Suspected communist rebels attacked
before dawn Friday the Philippines' largest paper manufacturer in the
southern province of Surigao del Sur and ransacked its armory of dozens of
weapons, mostly automatic rifles, the military said.

Heavily-armed New People's Army (NPA) rebels, numbering a dozen, stormed
the compound of Picop Resources Inc. in Tabon village in Bislig town
shortly before 2 a.m. and disarmed security guards before ransacking the
arsenal, the military said.

Regional police chief Alberto Olario was quoated by reporters as saying
that guerrillas have carted away 81 automatic rifles, four shotguns and two
hand guns and the raiders have fled on three vans after the attack.

Police and military said there were no reports of firefight or casualties
from the raid.

"There is an ongoing pursuit operation. Troops were tracking down the
rebels," the Southern Command spokesman Lt. Col. Daniel Lucero told
reporters in Zamboanga City.

Government offensive continue against the New People's Army (NPA) in the
southern Philippines.

The military said suspected NPA rebels late Wednesday also torched a bus
after flagging down the vehicle and ordered its passengers to line up on
the road in Fuentes village in Pantucan town in Compostela province.

The bus was bound for Mati town in Davao Oriental province when it was
flagged down by rebels. Lucero said one passenger was harmed by rebels for
a still unknown reasons. "We have reports saying the NPA rebels were behind
the attack, probably they were trying to extort money from the bus firm,"
he told reporters.

The bus is owned by Rural Transit of Mindanao, targeted in the past by NPA
rebels in the province. The military said more than a dozen buses have been
either bombed or toched by communist and Muslim rebels in the southern
Philippines everytime they failed to collect "revolutionary taxes."

The military have blamed the NPA in the series of attacks on civilian and
government targets in th South and was last year declared as foreign
terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

Last week, suspected NPA rebels also bomb equipment of a private
construction firm CMS Construction Inc., working on government road project
in the town of Kumalarang in Zamboanga del Sur province. (Al Jacinto, PHNO
Mindanao Bureau)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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