MANILA, May 30 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine military said a land mine explosion on Thursday wounded 11 people, including seven soldiers, in Bukidnon province in the southern Philippines.
The military accused the New People's Army (NPA) rebels of planting land mines in the path of a convoy of soldiers, non-governmental organization (NGO) workers, and visiting indigenous peoples (IPs) from Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Vietnam.
The military said none of the visiting IPs were hurt in the blast. However, all the IPs were driven to the local airport after the attack for their safety.
The military said the IPs, which included women, were on an exposure trip to the indigenous Higaonon tribes in Bukidnon province to participate in an event organized by Higaonon Amamag Malandang Olandok Gagaw (HAMOG), an NGO that promotes cultural preservation in Mindanao, home to the Higaonon nomadic tribe.
Col. Edgardo De Leon, commander of the Philippine Army's 403rd Brigade based in Bukidnon, said the attack occurred around 6 a.m. in Kalabugao village in the outskirts of Impasugong town. The blast hit a military truck escorting the vehicle used by the IPs and civilian volunteers, he added.
De Leon said the foreigners are visitors of the Impasugong town government. He said the foreigners just came to observe how the country is preserving the culture of the Filipino IPs and their environment.
He said the soldiers fired back at the fleeing NPA rebels, wounding three.
A military statement quoted a witness as saying, "We thought a tire exploded, then we heard burst of fire, somebody shouted duck. We were afraid but we are very thankful to Filipino soldiers for providing us protection."
De Leon said troops recovered two unexploded anti-personnel land mines in the area during clearing operations.
Although primarily a rural-based guerrilla group, the NPA has an active urban infrastructure to support its rebel activities. The NPA primarily targets Philippine security forces, government officials, local infrastructure, and businesses that refuse to pay extortion, or "revolutionary taxes."
The NPA rebels continue to wage small scale armed attacks against the military after the Duterte administration scrapped the talks with the group in 2017.
The armed group marked the 50th anniversary of their rural rebellion on March 29 this year.