MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Eight members of the elite Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (SAF) were killed in an ambush by suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Cagayan on Monday morning, police said.
A landmine exploded in Barangay Cataratan in Allacapan town at around 8:30 a.m. while the policemen, on board a truck, were passing, according to Director Rodrigo De Gracia, Cagayan Valley (Region 2) police chief.
About 30 New People's Army (NPA) fighters hiding on the sides of the road then opened fire on the stunned survivors, regional police spokesman Inspector Cesar Orlanes told reporters.
"The wounded were able to return fire and they managed to retreat. Some of our reinforcements picked them up later," he told AFP.
Seven other policemen were injured.
De Gracia said the policemen were on their way to a medical exam in Allapan when the ambush occurred.
He said the rebels belong to the NPA's Danilo Bien Command.
The rebels escaped with 11 rifles and seven handguns from the casualties, Orlanes said.
The victims were all members of the PNP-SAF, an elite police unit trained in counter-insurgency tactics that is typically involved in security operations against communist rebels.
The ambush happened after 7 Marines died in an encounter with some 50 Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Jolo, Sulu on Saturday.
The NPA has been waging a 44-year-old Maoist armed campaign that has claimed at least 30,000 lives, according to a government estimate.
The attack came a month after the government announced that peace talks aimed at ending the rebellion had crumbled.
"We grieve for the brave police officers and the other victims of this unconscionable crime," the government peace panel said in a statement.
The peace panel condemned the rebels' use of landmines, saying it was a violation of the Ottawa treaty which banned them.
"By its insistence on using landmines and its insistence on continuing a regime of violence... the NPA turns a blind eye to the clamor of our people for a peaceful resolution of the armed conflict," the panel said.
The NPA, which is believed to have about 4,000 fighters, has conducted a series of high-profile attacks this year.
The deadliest occurred in January, when nine police and security forces were killed in another ambush.
Last month, NPA rebels also killed two aides of a town mayor who is a member of President Benigno Aquino's Liberal Party. – reports from Edwin Sevidal, dzMM; Agence France-Presse