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Philippine communist rebel landmine kills 3 police

Written by: Staff
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MANILA, Mar 3 (Reuters) Communist rebels set off a landmine in the northern Philippines today, killing three police officers, officials said.

The police officers were on patrol near the seaside town of Puerto Galera on Mindoro island, which is popular with foreign tourists, when the crude landmine went off, a police spokesman said.

Three officers were wounded in the attack, which police blamed on members of the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

''We're very sure about this, the communists were behind the attack,'' said the police official, adding the rebel group had torched a mobile phone tower outside the town on Wednesday.

''The NPAs were stepping up attacks to take advantage of the volatile situation.'' President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ended emergency rule in the Philippines today, a week after she imposed it to counter an alleged attempt by rogue troops and leftist groups to seize power and form a junta.

The insurgency by the 8,000-member NPA has killed more than 40,000 people since the late 1960s, scaring investors and slowing rural development in one of Southeast Asia's poorest countries.

The rebels, active in 69 of 79 provinces, have intensified attacks in the countryside since September when Arroyo faced and then survived an impeachment motion in Congress over allegations of vote-rigging and corruption.

Talks brokered by Norway stalled in 2004 when Manila refused to help persuade the United States and some western European states to remove the communists from their terrorism blacklists.

About 50 senior leaders and members of the communist party, including those living in exile in the Netherlands, are being investigated by state prosecutors after police filed rebellion complaints in connection with the plot against Arroyo.

''The claim of the Arroyo regime that there is a coup conspiracy between the communist party and so-called military adventurists of the right is a brazen lie,'' Jose Maria Sison, the communist movement's founder and leader, said in a statement.

Sison said the government fabricated the plot to justify Arroyo's order placing the country under emergency rule, asking ''all patriotic and progressive forces'' to intensify ''all forms of struggle to oust the regime''.

REUTERS PR SP1300

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