Philippine soldiers kill 9 Maoist rebels in fierce clash

Guerrillas of the New People's Army (NPA) resting among bushes in the Sierra Madre mountain range, located east of Manila on July 30, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine soldiers killed nine Maoist rebels in one of the fiercest clashes since peace talks to end nearly five decades of conflict broke down in May, an army spokesman said on Wednesday (Sept 20).

An army corporal was also slightly wounded in the 25-minute firefight in a rural area of Nueva Ecija province, some 220 kilometres north of the capital Manila, army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Isagani Nato said.

Lt Col Nato said the soldiers rushed to the village after receiving a report of armed men in the area.

Confronted by a band of around 15 guerrillas from the New People's Army (NPA), the soldiers killed nine.

More than 40,000 people have died in the long-running insurgency, and peace negotiations have sputtered on and off.

Talks, brokered by Norway, resumed in August last year, days after President Rodrigo Duterte freed senior communist figures and militants. A ceasefire agreement held for almost four months.

But Mr Duterte suspended talks in January after rebels resumed and stepped up attacks on security forces, as well as on businesses in the countryside, including mines, plantations and construction companies.

In May, the president scrapped peace negotiations saying he will only agree to resume talks if rebels sign a negotiated ceasefire, and stop recruitment and extortion.

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