Communist rebels attack Philippine army outpost in pre-dawn raid, killing 5 soldiers

MANILA, Philippines — Communist rebels killed five soldiers during an pre-dawn attack on an army outpost in the southern Philippines on Tuesday, three days after a guerrilla ambush left eight police officers dead in a central province, an army spokesman said.

About 30 New People’s Army guerrillas attacked the outpost manned by about 10 soldiers outside Veruela township in Agusan del Sur province, said Lt. Col. Triumph Dominic Bagaipo, spokesman for the army’s 4th Infantry Division.

Troops from a nearby army camp reinforced the besieged soldiers, forcing the attackers to retreat after a 15-minute firefight, he said. Troops were in pursuit of the rebels, who took three assault rifles seized from the slain soldiers, he said.

Division commander Maj. Gen. Victor Felix said the attack “will only make our resolve stronger to achieve lasting peace in the area.”

The attack came three days after rebels killed eight police officers ambushed outside Catarman township in central Northern Samar while they were checking a report that rebels assassinated a local village council member. The rebels fled with firearms from the slain officers.

The rebels have recently stepped up attacks against soldiers and police in remote areas in a bid to acquire badly needed weapons.

The attacks are a way for the rebels “to make their presence felt” ahead of a possible resumption of peace talks to end the 41-year-old insurgency, one of the longest-running in Asia, said Brig. Gen. Francisco Cruz, deputy chief of staff for intelligence.

“They want to show a certain strength. They are weakened already. It’s a strategy of the weak,” he said.

President Benigno Aquino III, who took office June 30, has said his administration is willing to resume peace talks, which have been suspended since 2004 after the rebels accused the government of instigating their inclusion on U.S. and European terrorist lists.

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