Military: Filipino rebels kill 100 troops in 2011

MANILA -- Communist guerrillas killed about 100 government troops and police and waged 447 attacks last year despite a continuing decline in their 43-year insurgency, the military said Sunday.

The attacks by New People's Army guerrillas included 31 assaults on mining firms, banana plantations and other businesses that damaged $27 million (1.2 billion pesos) worth of equipment and property, military spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos said. The rebels earned nearly $7 million (300 million pesos) from extortion in 2011, he said.

Although the Marxist insurgency, one of Asia's longest-running, remains the Philippines' leading security threat, rebel attacks have declined in recent years. The number of armed rebel fighters dropped 7.8 percent last year to 4,043, Burgos said.

The 447 rebel attacks last year were 11 percent fewer than in 2010 and consisted mostly of small assaults on remote detachments, killings, kidnappings, bombing and arson conducted as part of extortion demands, Burgos said. He said only 69 were major assaults, including simultaneous attacks in October on three nickel mining complexes in southeastern Surigao del Norte province that involved more than 200 guerrillas.

About 100 soldiers and troops were killed in rebel assaults last year, down from 184 in 2010, he said.

The Maoist rebels' reliance on extortion from businesses and even poor villagers reflects a decline in their support from communities, Burgos said.

President Benigno Aquino III has opened peace talks with the rebels but the negotiations have been stalled for months over a guerrilla demand for officials to release more jailed rebels. Norway, which has been brokering the talks, has tried but failed so far to bridge the differences.

Political analyst Ramon Casiple said it is much harder now for the rebels to win political support from the people under the popular Aquino, son of revered pro-democracy figures, than in the time of disgraced leaders like former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who has been detained for alleged corruption, and the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was accused of plunder and massive human rights violations.

"The rebels are dealing with a government that they cannot isolate politically like Marcos," Casiple said. "It's also a political conflict, a battle for hearts and minds."

The Maoist rebels did not immediately comment on the military statement, but have disputed such claims in the past as propaganda amid escalating rebel attacks.

The Communist Party of the Philippines last month dismissed as "annual year-end empty bragging" an announcement by officials that the military had cleared 23 provinces of communist insurgents, and threatened more attacks in coming months.

The rural-based insurgency has endured amid widespread poverty, landlessness and faulty governance in the country's poorest regions. Clashes have killed an estimated 120,000 combatants and civilians. (AP)


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