ZAMBOANGA CITY: One soldier was killed and another was wounded in separate clashes with communist rebels in Zamboanga del Sur, officials said on Sunday.

Officials said New People’s Army (NPA) rebels attacked a soldier, who was a member of the 53rd Infantry Battalion, in the village of Ocapan in Zamboanga del Sur’s Guipos town.

Capt. Franco Sueto, spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, said the soldier, whose identity was not released by the military, tried to fight off the attackers, but had been killed.

“The soldier managed to return fire but was out-numbered by rebels and he sustained gunshot wounds on his chest and head that caused his instantaneous death. Troops of 53rd Infantry Battalion immediately responded in the area and found the body of the victim without his issued firearms,” he said.

Sueto said troops were tracking down the attackers. “A pursuit operation was immediately launched to bring the suspects to justice. The name of the soldier was withheld prior informing his nearest of kin.”

He said the slain soldier was also a member of the army’s peace and development team involved in various humanitarian programs in the province.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the soldier killed. He died protecting the Filipino people and in pursuit of peace and development. It is unfortunate and sad that our soldier was ambushed while serving the people. Our troops are in the community to bring peace and development as part of the Bayanihan Activities,” Sueto said.

He said one soldier, from the 10th Infantry Battalion, was also wounded in a clash over the weekend in the village of Midatag in Leon Postigo town in Zamboanga del Norte.

He said troops, led by Lt. Levie Jolly Bulawan, were patrolling the village when they encountered a group of rebels and a firefight ensued. The fighting lasted over 20 minutes.

The NPA has been fighting for a separate communist state in the country.