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Gunmen kill police in Philippines ambush

At least nine people killed in attack in central province; police suspect gunmen are communist insurgents.
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2013 06:55

Suspected communist insurgents ambushed a truck carrying police and village guards in an attack which left nine people dead and wounded at least six in the central Philippines, an official said.

The police and village guards were returning from securing a town festival on Sunday in the central island of Negros before dawn when about 30 heavily-armed gunmen opened fire on them, said Chief Inspector Rico Santotome.

Among the dead were one policeman, six village guards, the wife of a guard and the driver of the truck, said the police spokesman.

"They wanted to finish them off, especially the policeman. They shot him in the head to make sure he was dead," said Santotome.

Police suspect the communist New People's Army (NPA) are behind the attack in the rural mountain town of La Castellana -- one of the most violent assaults this year.

The government had hoped to revive peace talks with the insurgents, even declaring a Christmas season ceasefire with the guerrillas, but in recent weeks the NPA have stepped up attacks on rural businesses and security forces.

The rebel leadership pulled out of peace talks in November 2011 after the government rejected their demands to free jailed comrades who they claimed were consultants to the negotiations.

Although both sides held fresh high-level talks in December last year and agreed to the Christmas ceasefire, fighting with the NPA -- the rebels' guerrilla arm -- continues.

The Maoist rebels have been waging an armed rebellion to seize power since 1969 and more than 30,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the government.

The military estimates the current NPA strength is at about 4,000 fighters, significantly down from more than 26,000 at its peak in the late 1980s.

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