TWO foreign tourists and their Filipino driver were injured after they were caught in a crossfire of the encounter between suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and policemen on board a patrol car at Sitio Sohoton, Barangay Caliling in Cauayan, Negros Occidental Tuesday afternoon.

Senior Superintendent Rodolfo Castil Jr., director of Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo), in a text message to SunStar Bacolod, identified the wounded as Karl Christer Arvidson, a Swedish national, and Juliana Palmero, a Brazilian national, and Jason Tumayao, the local driver.

The foreigners were on their way to neighboring Sipalay City for an outing.

Arvidson was hit on the left wrist while Palmero sustained a gunshot wound on the left shoulder. Tumayao was hit in the face, stomach, and thigh.

All three were brought to the Bacolod Adventist Medical Center in Bacolod City.

Chief Inspector Gary Alan Resuma, town police chief, said his personnel were responding to a report of attempted robbery hold-up in a resort owned by a foreigner at Barangay Linaon before proceeding to serve an arrest warrant in Sipalay.

Resuma said the rebels fired at the patrol car while it was overtaking the vehicle of the tourists.

The five policemen jumped from the patrol car and took cover.

The other vehicle fell on a canal, trapping the three passengers while the firefight continued for about 15 minutes.

The rebels, numbering about 30, withdrew towards the area of Barangay Linaon.

Resuma said all the policemen were unharmed, but three of the rebels were reportedly injured.

Police recovered from the ambush site fired bullets of M16 and MK47 rifles.

Resuma said the wife of the resort owner called for police assistance when two unidentified men wearing bonnets came to the resort.

“They (the rebels) made a scenario to trap the police, however, they did not succeed,” he added.

Resuma said the area is now passable after Philippine Army troops conducted a clearing operation for about three hours.

For his part, Castil, who went to Cauayan town, directed the police personnel to be cautious and alert at all times.

In a separate statement, Castil said the Nocppo “condemns the ambush incident Cauayan town targeting its policemen and the indiscriminate firing at a vehicle boarded by three civilians.”

“We appeal to the public to report immediately the presence of armed group and suspicious persons in their community,” he added.

“Let’s join hands in making Western Visayas and our communities the safest place to live, work, and do business,” Castil further said.

Meanwhile, Colonel Eliezer Losañes, commander of the Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade, said hot pursuit operation against the rebels is ongoing.