Philippine troops kill 6 communist rebels in clash

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Government forces killed at least six communist rebels in fighting ending early Wednesday that was the latest blow to insurgents who have suffered recent battle losses, the military said.

Troops backed by police were checking reports about armed men in a village in Tarlac province’s Camiling township late Tuesday when they were fired upon by New People’s Army guerrillas, said army 703rd Brigade commander Col. Henry Sabarre said. The fighting ended hours later with six rebels, including one female, dead.

Sabarre said an earlier count of seven deaths was because soldiers mistook a rebel backpack in a rice paddy for a body.

He said the recovery of a machine gun and other high-caliber weapons indicate “a top (rebel) personality is in the area.” The slain rebels were not immediately identified, he said.

The rebel band was part of a larger group that operates in Tarlac, President Benigno Aquino III’s home province, and the adjacent provinces of Zambales and Pangasinan, he said.

“We have been conducting a series of combat operation in these areas for so long now, side by side by our peace and development teams,” he said. “At the end of the day, these insurgents will have no more room to hide and eventually fall into the hands of our law.”

Military chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista early this month said government troops remain on track of meeting a target to eradicate one of Asia’s longest-running insurgency by the time Aquino steps down in 2016.

At least 14 guerrillas, including a regional officer of the underground Communist Party, were killed in earlier clashes this month in the central and southern Philippines.

Talks to end the 44-year insurgency, which has been fueled largely by rural poverty and injustice, have collapsed and the military intensified counter-insurgency operations.

Recent efforts to revive the talks brokered by Norway failed after the rebels rejected an immediate cease-fire.

The rebels accuse successive Philippine administrations of subservience to U.S. interests and failing to improve the lives of the poor. Their numbers have dwindled from a peak of about 25,000 in the mid-1980s to an estimated 4,000 fighters amid battle setbacks, surrenders and factionalism. They are listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and European Union.

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