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Friday, February 17, 2017

Philippines: 2 troops, 2 communist rebels killed in clash

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - Two Philippine soldiers and two communist rebels have been killed in a recent encounter that also left 15 troops wounded in the country’s troubled south, according to the military Friday.

Army spokesman Maj. Esra Balagtey told Anadolu Agency in an email that a clash took place on the outskirts of Davao City -- the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte -- after troops pursuing rebels ran into a landmine Wednesday afternoon.

The violence comes two weeks after the New People’s Army (NPA) -- the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) -- and the government called off unilateral cease-fires declared last year.

Balagtey said Friday that 3rd Infantry Battalion troops were pursuing armed men accused of burning a pineapple harvester owned by Del Monte Co. when they ran into a landmine reportedly set up by the NPA.

The blast killed two soldiers and wounded 15 others.

Two rebels were killed in a subsequent firefight, after which two firearms, two explosives and landmine-making material were recovered, according to the military.

In a Feb. 1 statement, the NPA withdrew its unilateral cease-fire, citing the Duterte administration's “failure” to release all political prisoners and the military's alleged encroachment on territory under the group’s control.

NPA spokesperson Ka Oris, however, said the group would continue to support peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), the CPP’s political arm.

Duterte later announced the end of the government’s cease-fire and told authorities to get released NDF political prisoners who attended recent talks in Norway and Rome back in prison.

The government was supposed to resume formal peace talks with the NDF representatives this April in Oslo.

The insurgency has been running since 1968. It has claimed 30,000 lives, according to the military, and stagnated development.

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