CATBALOGAN CITY -- Two government troopers were wounded in a landmine attack by New People’s Army (NPA) in Northern Samar Wednesday evening.

Captain Isagani Viernes, chief of the 8th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office, said the blast came in shortly after troops, numbering to about 16 soldiers of the 20th Infantry Battalion, led by 2nd Lieutenant Jeffrey Angelo Flores, were conducting security patrol following a report of NPA presence in the hinterland of Barangay Bagacay, Palapag, Northern Samar.

The Army official said they troops were made to follow an unidentified person until two of them hit an improvised explosive device (IED) planted along the soldiers' patrol route.

Shortly after the blast, a few minutes of firefight ensued until the NPA rebels withdrew.

The wounded soldiers were identified as Corporal Donnie A. Aton, who was hit by a PVC canister of the IED, and Private First Class Bingbong Crisologo, who sustained minor lacerations in the forehead due to IED fragments.

Their comrades rushed them to the Northern Samar Provincial Hospital for treatment.

Meanwhile, villagers from at least 15 upland villages of Calbiga town left their homes and evacuated to downtown in anticipation of an all-out military operations against the rebels in the area.

Sketchy reports said the villagers, considered as internally displaced persons, were seen hauling their families and their belongings and are now staying with their relatives in a village near the town center for fear that they might be caught in a crossfire between the military and NPA rebels.

One evacuee, who requested not to be named for security reason, said they were allegedly asked by the military to evacuate because military operations will start to pursue members of the CPP-NPA-NDF hiding in the boundaries of Calbiga, Basey and Eastern Samar where their villages are situated.

But the military denied the allegations, saying there are no impending all-out military operations in the area.

“There are neither such operations nor directive issued to them. Normal military operations such regular combat patrol and similar activities will resume as the Somo (suspension of military operations) ended January 3,” the military said.