Rebels kill 10 Filipino soldiers
Manila - Suspected communist guerrillas killed 10 army soldiers returning to their camp in the central Philippines after being recalled from combat two days before a Christmas cease-fire, officials said on Wednesday.
A 9-year-old boy was also killed in the crossfire on Tuesday when the New People's Army guerrillas detonated land mines then opened fire on the soldiers near where villagers were swimming in a river in Northern Samar province, regional military commander Lieutenant General Ralph Villanueva said.
Two soldiers were wounded in the ambush, which took place near a rice field in remote Catubig town. The guerrillas seized assault rifles and grenade launchers from the slain and wounded troops, he said.
The Philippines' 41-year Marxist rebellion has been one of Asia's longest and bloodiest. More than 120 000 combatants and civilians have died in the rural-based rebellion.
Government forces would not pursue the attackers in compliance with the cease-fire, which had been agreed to by both sides. It was to start on Thursday and last to January 3, regional military spokesperson Major Christopher Tampos said.
The military condemned the attack and said authorities will file criminal charges against the still-unidentified assailants.
The ambush was launched despite a planned resumption of long-stalled peace talks early next year in Norway, which has been brokering the negotiations.
"This is a very unfortunate event, especially this Christmas season," Villanueva said. "We're preparing for the cease-fire, going to the defensive mode and our enemies took advantage of this."
Talks suspended since 2004
Tampos said the Maoist rebels wanted to get back at government troops after taking a beating from offensives in Northern Samar, an impoverished province 480km southeast of Manila. Troops have captured at least 20 rebel jungle encampments in the region in recent months, he said.
Peace talks have been suspended since 2004 after the rebels accused the government of instigating their inclusion on US and European terrorist lists.
Hopes were raised for the resumption of talks with the communist insurgents, as well as with Muslim separatist rebels, after the country's new and popular president, Benigno Aquino III, took office in June and reorganised the government peace panels.
A new government negotiator, Alexander Padilla, met with his rebel counterpart, Luis Jalandoni, in Hong Kong recently and agreed to the Christmas cease-fire and talks in January to discuss the planned resumption of formal negotiations the following month.
In another boost to the talks, Aquino last week ordered charges be dropped against 43 health workers arrested in February on suspicion they were rebels engaged in medical and bomb-making training east of Manila.
Padilla said he expects to successfully conclude the talks in three years.
He said attempts by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's administration to crush the communist insurgency by force had failed. "We've not seen anybody win by armed means, we really should resort to talks," he said.