Philippines: Three Rebels Killed In Clash

Communist rebels attacked a government militia outpost Saturday in the northern Philippines, provoking a clash in which three guerrillas were killed, police said.
    The rebels stormed the encampment outside the mountain township of Sallapadan, said Abra provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Alexander Pumecha.
    About 20 government militiamen resisted the dawn assault, killing three guerrillas, but abandoned the outpost hours later when a larger group of about 100 New People’s Army guerrillas attacked, Pumecha said.
    “They stood their ground but withdrew because of the superiority of strength” of the rebel force, Pumecha said.
    He said the rebels fled the camp later Saturday when government troops counterattacked.
    The soldiers were still pursuing the retreating rebels hours later and sporadic clashes were reported, Pumecha said.
    He said guerrillas operating in surrounding provinces may have taken part in the attack.
    It was the first time the rebels have attacked a militia detachment in the area, he said.
    The rebels, who have waged a rural-based insurrection for about 40 years, have become more active in recent months, attacking remote police and military outposts and convoys, and seizing weapons.
    Norway has tried to initiate a resumption of talks between the Philippine government and the rebels. The talks broke off in 2004, after the rebels accused Manila of instigating their inclusion on U.S. and European Union terrorist lists.
    President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered the military to crush the rebels by 2010, when her term ends. The military says the number of rebels has dropped from 7,000 several years ago to just over 5,000 this year due to battle casualties and surrenders.
    Abra is about 200 miles north of Manila.

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