FOUR Army soldiers were killed in an ambushed Wednesday night by the New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Agusan del Sur, where the rebels have stepped up raids on police outposts and military convoys.

The soldiers came from a village consultation in Barangay Masayan, Veruela and were heading to Barangay La Fortuna onboard two military trucks when attacked by about 20 rebels belonging to the Guerrilla Front 3 of the NPA.

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Major Randolph Cabangbang, spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Eastern Mindanao Command, said "a firefight ensued for almost 30 minutes before the rebels withdrew."

Killed were identified as Lieutenant Isagani Villasis, Sergeant Jose Balaba, Private First Class (Pfc) Alejandro Dao, and Private Zen Stephen.

All four were declared dead upon arrival at the Plaza Memorial Hospital in Agusan del Sur.

Cabangbang said the military personnel are from the Army's 26th and 23rd Infantry Battalions and the 4th Civil Military Operations.

The wounded were identified as Sergeant Fernandez, Sergeant Edesio Escalante, Pfc. Julius Bolotano, and 10-year-old civilian Rosegin Tamonan of Barangay La Fortuna.

Cabangbang said a civilian caught in the crossfire was among four wounded in the attack.

The wounded are now being treated at the same hospital. (Ben O. Tesiorna)