Clashes erupt ahead of peace talks-A A +A
Sunday, December 5, 2010
MANILA -- Government troops killed a communist guerrilla and captured a rebel encampment in offensives launched despite a planned resumption of talks aimed at ending a 41-year Maoist rebellion, officials said Sunday.
Philippine officials and the rebels announced Friday they will hold preliminary talks in January to discuss a planned resumption of peace talks in late February in Norway. The talks stalled in 2004.
The two sides also agreed to observe a ceasefire from December 16 to January 3 during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Despite the looming talks, Army troops attacked about 20 New People's Army guerrillas near a farming village in Pontevera town in central Capiz province late Saturday, killing a rebel and seizing two rifles. A soldier was wounded in the clash, Army chief Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz said.
The other guerrillas withdrew and were being pursued by troops, he said.
Army scout rangers separately seized a rebel encampment Friday in Northern Samar province, also in the central Philippines, but guerrillas abandoned the area before they arrived, regional military spokesman Lt. Col. Noel Vestuir said.
Villagers tipped off troops about the jungle encampment, which has bunkers and sentry outposts. It was the 38th such rebel encampment to be found by troops since they launched new offensives in August, Vestuir said.
The clashes came despite signs of improving conditions for talks to end the rural-based rebellion, one of Asia's longest and bloodiest during which more than 120,000 combatants and civilians have died.
Chief rebel negotiator Luis Jalandoni and his wife flew to Manila Saturday for a two-week visit to meet relatives and comrades.
The Philippine government has 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. The government has also restored an agreement giving rebel negotiators and their staff immunity from arrest.
Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte on Sunday welcomed Jalandoni's arrival, adding the government was reviewing the cases of 43 detained men and women whose freedom has been demanded by the rebels.
The military has accused the 43 of belonging to the New People's Army, the armed wing of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines. They were arrested by government forces last February in Morong town, Rizal province, where the military alleged they were holding bomb-making and medical training.
Those arrested said they were health workers. (AP)