Military claims success over rebel fighters
Officers say hundreds were 'neutralized' last year
The Philippines military claims to have dealt communist rebels a major blow in the past year by "neutralizing" 555 fighters at a cost of 164 government troops and civilians killed.
Around 367 rebels surrendered while the rest were either killed or captured during combat operations, military spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.
Government security officials estimate the fighting strength of the communist-led New People's Army (NPA) at approximately 4,000, down from an estimated 4,700 in 2010.
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging a guerrilla war with the government since 1969.
During the Marcos years the NPA's strength stood at an estimated 25,000.
Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista has vowed to render the communist movement "inconsequential" before he retires next year.
"The [armed forces] will never waiver in its commitment to thwarting NPA atrocities and armed violence until lasting peace and stability for our country is achieved," Bautista said.
He added that he supported peace negotiations between the government and the rebels.
According to mlitary statistics, communist rebels launched a total of 374 attacks last year, leading to the deaths of 53 civilians, 81 soldiers, eight policemen and 22 government militiamen.
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