Suspected communist guerillas kill Philippine mayor

MANILA (AFP) - Suspected communist guerillas disguised in paramilitary-style uniforms shot dead a Philippine mayor on Monday as he presided over a flag-raising ceremony at a town hall, police said.

About 20 men took part in the brazen attack, shooting dead Mayor Carlito Pentecostes in the northern town of Gonzaga and then overpowering officers at the scene, said regional police director Chief Superintendent Miguel Laurel.

"It looks like the NPA. That is where the evidence is pointing. It was their usual modus operandi, disguising in camouflage uniforms," he told AFP.

The 4,000-strong communist New People's Army has been waging a 45-year-old insurgency in the hinterlands of the South-east Asian archipelago that has claimed 30,000 lives, according to government estimates.

Mr Laurel said the gunmen escaped in several vehicles, including a commandeered police patrol car. As they fled, they scattered leaflets "where the content was about black sand mining and how they will punish the people involved", he said.

Mr Pentecostes has been accused by environmentalists of abetting illegal black sand mining in his area. He had denied the allegations. He was a member of the opposition coalition which includes Vice-President Jejomar Binay, said Mr Toby Tiangco, secretary-general of the party.

A spokesman for President Benigno Aquino condemned the murder and said catching the killers would be a priority.

Gonzaga, 412km north of Manila, is in Cagayan province where the NPA has been active in recent months. In January, the NPA raided a black sand mining firm there and burnt heavy equipment.

In April 2013, NPA gunmen wounded town mayor Ruth Guingona, wife of a former vice-president, and killed two of her aides in an ambush in the southern island of Mindanao.