Philippine rebels kill 5 policemen
It is the first major assault since the government and communist rebels agreed to restart peace talks in Oslo.
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2011 09:56 GMT
Some 120,000 people have been killed in one of the Asia's longest and deadliest rebellions [EPA]

Communist rebels have shot and killed a police chief and four other officers in northern Philippines after detonating roadside bombs under their patrol car, officials said.

Sunday's attack killed the Rizal town police chief, his brother, wife and two other officers. Two other police officials were also wounded in the ambush.

It was the first major assault since the Philippine government and communist rebels agreed to restart talks, ending the 42-year rural-based insurgency.

Some 120,000 people have been killed in the decades-long insurgency. Jose Francisco Villaroma, Cagayan provincial police director said that Antonio Rueco, the slain police chief, called for help using his mobile phone after he was shot by the rebels, but rescuers could not reach in time to save his life.

"He was talking over the phone and suddenly, there was silence. It appears that the rebels finished him off," Villaroman said. "We are aghast by the brutality of the attack."

He said three improvised bombs exploded along the road as the police vehicle was passing, then the attackers opened fire. The rebels later fled towards a mountain hide-out, Villaroman said.

Peace negotiations

The rebels and the government met last week in Norway and agreed to resume formal negotiations from February 15 to 21.

The government said the two sides would likely observe a ceasefire during those negotiations but so far the rebels have rebuffed calls for a more permanent truce in the absence of a political agreement.

Talks between the two sides were suspended in 2004 when the rebels, who have fought for a Marxist state since 1969, withdrew from negotiations.

They have accused the government of instigating the inclusion of the Communist Party and its armed wing, the New People's Army, on US and European lists of terrorist organisations.

After the apparent breakthrough in securing an agreement on February talks, President Benigno Aquino's government said it hoped to end the insurgency within three years.

However, security analysts doubt that one of Asia's longest and deadliest rebellions would be over by 2014.

Ideological differences

They say that even though the rebels' manpower is down to an estimated 4,700 rebels, huge ideological differences remain between the communists and government that will prevent a permanent peace.

Brigadier General Jose Mabanta, Military spokesman also said Sunday's attack was proof that rebels on the ground did not want to broker a peace and give up their arms.

"While we continue our confidence-building efforts, on their part they are showing bad faith. I don't think the instructions of their leadership are being implemented at the lower level," he said.

Government officials said that forthcoming discussions will likely include the group's demand for the release of Tirso Alcantara, a senior rebel commander who was arrested just after the two sides ended a 19-day Christmas truce.

The rebels said that Alcantara should be released as a member of the negotiating panel.

However, refusing to release him, presidential peace process adviser, Teresita Deles, said on Sunday that Alcantara’s name did not appear on a list of rebel negotiators covered by an agreement granting them immunity from prosecution.

Alcantara is facing 23 warrants for murder.

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