Communist rebels kill Philippine mayor

MANILA (AFP) - Communist guerrillas waging one of Asia's longest-running insurgencies have ambushed and killed the mayor of a town in the violence-plagued southern Philippines, the military said Thursday.

Guerrillas from the New People's Army (NPA) opened fire on a government convoy on troubled Mindanao island Wednesday, fatally wounding Mario Okinlay, according to a local military spokesman.

Okinlay was taken to hospital where he later died, while his attackers escaped, Army Major Christian Uy told AFP by telephone.

"The NPA sees Mayor Okinlay's good governance approach as an obstacle to their self-serving aims. Hence, they perpetrated this atrocity," Lieutenant-Colonel Romualdo Landingin said in a statement.

The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging a Maoist rebellion that has killed tens of thousands since 1969.

President Benigno Aquino had hoped to reach a peace deal with the insurgents before his six-year term ends in 2016, but planned peace talks have been hampered by rebel demands that detained comrades be freed.

Parts of Mindanao are also plagued by Al-Qaeda-linked Muslim militants.

Okinlay was the mayor of Impasug-ong, a mountainous town of about 45,000 people located about 800km south of the capital Manila.

He and other officials of the town had just come from an overnight medical mission at a remote village when they were attacked, Landingin said.

Soldiers and police were also in the convoy and they returned fire, forcing the rebels to retreat, he added.

Officials in the Philippines are often targeted by political rivals or communist insurgents.

Last month, gunmen shot dead a town mayor and two other people in a daylight roadside ambush in the rural town of Urbiztondo, north of Manila.

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