Philippines military kills five communist rebels
Army says rebels were extorting money from farmers
A soldier joins a Philippine military exercise. (Photo by Mark Navales)
At least five communist rebels were killed in an ongoing encounter with government troops in the northern Philippine province of Abra today.
The firefight started when an Army patrol chanced upon New People's Army rebels in the village of Guinguinabang in the town of Lacub.
"The civilians themselves told us about the presence of the rebels," said Lt Col Virgilo Noora, commanding officer of the Army's 41st Infantry Battalion.
Noora said the villagers were "distrustful" of the rebels who reportedly extorted from farmers.
Col Paul Atal, commander of the Army's 503rd Infantry Brigade, said the rebels are "no longer welcome" in the province.
"I think this is the offshoot of an incident when the rebels executed three civilians a few months ago," Atal said.
Lt Gen Felicito Virgilio Trinidad Jr, commander of the military's Northern Luzon Command, said the death of the rebels "is a sad development, but our troops have to protect our people".
"We offer our sympathy to the relatives of those killed in the encounter, but we renew our call for them to surrender, go back to mainstream society and be productive citizens," said Trinidad.
Human rights groups in the province, however, said that rights abuses rose as the military intensified its operations against the rebels.
Rebels have been stepping up attacks against government forces since March, when the military captured top leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
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