Communist rebels abduct 3 soldiers in Philippine raid

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MANILA, Oct 8 (Reuters) Communist rebels abducted three soldiers in a raid on an army base in the southern Philippines, the fourth such sting in as many months in the restive region.

Around 40 members of the New People's Army (NPA), disguised as government troops, seized 15 weapons in the attack on Saturday in Montevista, a small-scale mining town on the island of Mindanao, Major Rodrigo Sosmena said.

''They were using the three hostages as human shields in case our troops would pursue them. We have not found them yet, but we hope they are okay,'' Sosmena told reporters today.

Last month, about 100 NPA rebels, some of them in military uniform, stormed a police station in another part of Mindanao, wounding two police officers before stealing 18 weapons, a two-way radio and office supplies.

The government, which is also fighting Muslim insurgents, has said the NPA is the Philippines' biggest security threat.

The 7,000-member organisation continues to attract recruits, disillusioned by the country's yawning gap between rich and poor, and extorts money from telecoms firms, mining groups and plantation owners.

The insurgency has killed more than 40,000 people since the late 1960s and peace talks have been stalled since 2004 after the United States and some European states labelled the NPA a terrorist group.

Reuters ARB VP1217

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