MANILA, Philippines (AP) — At least six communist guerrillas and a government militiaman were killed in a clash following a rebel attack early Friday on a militia outpost in the southern Philippines, the military said.
About 40 New People’s Army guerrillas attacked the militia detachment in Agusan del Sur province’s Sibagat township, said Maj. Leo Bongosia, spokesman for the army’s 4th Infantry Division. One soldier also was wounded, he said.
It was the biggest battle loss for the rebels after a senior regional Communist Party leader and seven other guerrillas were killed in an army attack two weeks earlier in Sorsogon province southeast of Manila.
Bongosia said two military helicopter gunships provided fire support to army reinforcements during the five-hour gunbattle that ensued before the rebels withdrew.
The 44-year-old insurgency is one of Asia’s longest-running. Talks to end rural-based Maoist insurgency collapsed two years ago after the two sides disagreed over the release of jailed communist leaders. Recent efforts to revive the talks brokered by Norway failed after the rebels rejected an immediate cease-fire.
The rebels the Philippine government of subservience to U.S. interests and failing to improve the lives of the poor. The outlawed communist party and its armed wing are listed as terrorist organizations by the U.S. and European Union.
Chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista last week said the military is on track of meeting a target to eradicate the insurgency by 2016.
He said battle setbacks and surrenders had reduced the number of guerrillas by more than 300 so far this year, leaving the insurgents with just over 4,000 armed fighters, down from its peak strength of about 25,000 in the mid-1980s. Bautista acknowledged the Maoist rebels remain a major security threat and have intensified attacks in recent months in the country’s southeastern region.