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Philippine army says kills 10 communist rebels

Written by: Staff
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MANILA, Apr 7 (Reuters) The Philippine army today said it had killed about 10 rebels from the communist New People's Army (NPA) after troops overran a large guerrilla base on the southern island of Mindanao.

Colonel Francisco Simbajon, an army spokesman in the south, said yesterday fighting was triggered by a military raid on a rebel encampment on the slopes of Mount Bawaya.

Simbajon said two soldiers were killed during the assault and two were wounded as army commandos battled about 50 Maoist-led rebels for an hour.

''We were told by some villagers that they saw the fleeing rebels dragging 10 bodies,'' he told reporters, adding troops had found several bunkers that could accommodate more than 100 people in the rebel camp.

The insurgency by the NPA, the armed wing of the Philippine communist party, has killed more than 40,000 people since the late 1960s. It has been labelled a terrorist group by the United States and some European states.

Peace talks between the communists and the government, brokered by Norway, collapsed in August 2004 when Manila declined a request by the rebels to persuade Washington and others to remove them from terror blacklists.

The Philippines, Washington's closest security partner in Southeast Asia, estimates the NPA membership at more than 7,000 down from a peak of 25,000 in the mid-1980s.

The Philippines is also fighting several Muslim rebel groups, some of which are suspected of having links to al Qaeda and the regional militant network Jemaah Islamiah.

Informal peace talks between the largest Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Manila were in their final stages to end nearly 40 years of rebellion that has killed more than 120,000 people and delayed development on Mindanao.

REUTERS SHR RS1523

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