Mon, Dec 06, 2010 - Page 4 News List

Philippine troops, rebels clash ahead of peace talks


Philippine troops killed a communist guerrilla and captured a rebel encampment in offensives launched despite a planned resumption of talks aimed at ending the 41-year Maoist rebellion, officials said yesterday.

Philippine officials and the rebels announced on Friday they will hold preliminary talks next month to discuss a planned resumption of peace talks in late February in Norway, which has brokered past negotiations. The talks stalled in 2004.

The two sides also agreed to observe a ceasefire from Dec. 16 to Jan. 3 during the Christmas and New Year holiday.

Despite the upcoming talks, troops attacked about 20 New People’s Army guerrillas near a farming village in Pontevera town in Capiz province late on Saturday, killing a rebel and seizing two rifles.

A soldier was wounded in the clash, army chief Lieutenant General Arturo Ortiz said. The other guerrillas withdrew and were being pursued by troops, he said.

Army scout rangers also seized a rebel encampment on Friday in Northern Samar province, also in the central Philippines, but guerrillas abandoned the area before they arrived, regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Noel Vestuir said.

Villagers tipped off troops about the encampment, which has bunkers and sentry outposts. It was the 38th such site to be found since August, Vestuir said.

Meanwhile, chief rebel negotiator Luis Jalandoni and his wife flew to Manila on Saturday for a two-week visit to meet relatives and comrades. The government lifted an order to allow Jalandoni to travel to the Philippines. He has lived in exile with other rebel leaders in the Netherlands for years.

In other news, Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima yesterday backed calls to allow judges and lawyers to carry firearms.

She said judges and lawyers were being encouraged to improve their shooting and driving skills as a precaution against ambushes.

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