Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Maoist rebels stage attacks in central Philippines

MANILA, July 15 (Reuters) - Maoist guerrillas in the Philippines ambushed troops and planted a land mine on a central island on Tuesday, a few hours before a visit by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, officials said.

Arroyo was in no danger at any time.

Captain Leah Santiago, an army spokeswoman, said communist New People Army (NPA) rebels killed a soldier in an ambush near Uson town on Masbate island, ahead of a visit by Arroyo to survey destruction caused by a typhoon last month.

"They are trying to make their presence felt on the island," Santiago said, adding security forces also detonated an improvised land mine planted by the rebels 3 km (2 miles) from the site of a meeting to be addressed by the president.

"Our troops had safely detonated the explosives, causing no injuries but toppled a few banana trees. It was apparently made to harass soldiers and police officers guarding the president's visit in the area."

She said the president proceeded with her visit, held talks with officials and surveyed areas devastated by the typhoon that killed nearly 600 people and destroyed about 15 billion pesos ($333 million) worth of crops and property in June.

The typhoon also caused the capsizing of a ferry in which at least 800 people were feared killed.

"The president sent a strong signal that government will penetrate area that are pestered by insurgents to deliver needed basic services and to show the irrelevance of armed insurgency in the countryside," Jesus Dureza, the president's press secretary and spokesman, told reporters.

Arroyo left Masbate later in the day.

The Philippines has been fighting a communist insurgency for nearly 40 years in 69 of 81 provinces across the archipelago. The conflict has killed more than 40,000 people and stunted economic growth. (Reporting by Manny Mogato; editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

No comments: