Philippine communist rebels kill 11 soldiers

MANILA: Philippine communist guerrillas killed 11 soldiers and one civilian in an ambush Wednesday in the northern mountain town of Tinoc, a military spokesman said.

A three-vehicle Philippine army convoy was attacked by rebels from the New People’s Army, Colonel Loreto Maguddayao told AFP.

“Eleven soldiers, including an officer, and one civilian riding with them were killed,” Maguddayao said.

An army captain was among those killed, but the apparent target was the local battalion commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Eugenio Batara, who was also in the convoy but escaped unhurt, he said.

A civilian who played in the military brass band was also killed, while two other soldiers and another civilian were wounded.

“This is considered one of the most daring attacks by the NPA in this area in recent years,” he said.

The NPA is the armed unit of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging a rebellion since 1969, in one of Asia’s longest running communist insurgencies.

The government last year boasted it had decimated the NPA ranks in the

northern mountain regions due to successes on the battlefield and effective

community work that turned villagers against the rebels.

Across the Philippines, the military said the NPA’s strength has fallen to just over 4,000 fighters as of 2011 from over 26,000 at the peak of its strength in the 1980s.

The government had opened peace talks with the communists but negotiations reached an impasse in November after Manila rejected rebel demands to free 18 jailed guerrillas the NPA said were consultants to its negotiating team.

The rebels have since vowed to step up attacks against the military and vital government installations.

A major rebel action last year involved about 200 guerrillas who attacked three mining sites in the mineral-rich, but impoverished southern island of Mindanao.

The NPA claimed the attacks were payback for years of alleged environmental damage and abuse by the miners, but the military said it was carried out to force companies to pay illegal “revolutionary taxes”. AFP