MEXICO, Pampanga -- Five suspected members of the Rebolusyunaryong Hukbong Bayan (RHB) were killed while another one was captured during an assault launched by government security forces at the rebels' safehouse in Barangay San Jose Matulid here dawn Tuesday.

Pampanga Provincial Police Senior Superintendent Rodolfo Recomono Jr. said the slain suspected rebels have been persuaded to surrender but they instead opened fire towards the assault team consisting of SWAT-Pampanga, Pampanga Provincial Police Office (PPPO) Intelligence Group, PPPO Public Safety Group and Mexico police.

He said an exchange of gunfire ensued, leaving five suspects dead, including a woman. Another suspect who was wounded during the exchange of gunfire was captured.

Police were still unable to identify the slain suspects at press time.

Recomono said the suspects were allegedly involved in various criminal activities including robbery hold-up, illegal drugs trafficking and carnapping. The group operates in Tarlac, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Bataan, he said.

Chief Superintendent Ronald Santos, Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Police Regional Office 3 (PRO3), said the assault is part of the internal security operations against terrorist and lawless elements and part of preparations for the APEC meeting in Bagac, Bataan.

Santos said the group has been placed under surveillance by intelligence groups and local police in Mexico town after they received reports on the presence of suspicious-looking unidentified armed men there.

He said the RHB is a breakaway group of the New People’s Army (NPA) operating in southeastern Pampanga towns.

Police operatives seized different kinds of firearms including high-powered handguns, assault rifles, communication equipment, four motorcycles, illegal drugs and explosives and an RHB logo at the rebels’ safehouse. Extortion letters ready for massive distribution to prospective targets were also found inside the safehouse, said Recomono.

The firearms, now in police custody, include an M16 rifle, two units carbine, four caliber .45 pistols, two caliber .38 revolvers, a hand grenade and bladed weapons, said Recomono.

The wounded suspected rebel, Recomono said, was rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment. (Chris Navarro)