Manila: Suspected communist guerrillas killed 10 army soldiers who were returning to their camp in the central Philippines after being recalled from combat two days before a Christmas cease-fire, officials said Wednesday.
A nine-year-old boy also was killed in the crossfire Tuesday when the New People`s Army guerrillas detonated landmines then opened fire on the soldiers near where villagers were swimming in a river in Northern Samar province, regional military commander Lt. Gen. Ralph Villanueva said.
Two soldiers were wounded in the ambush, which took place near a ricefield in remote Catubig town. The guerrillas seized at least 11 assault rifles and grenade launchers from the slain and wounded soldiers, he said.
Government troops would not pursue the attackers in compliance with the cease-fire, which had been agreed by both sides and was to start on Thursday and last up to Jan. 3, regional military spokesman Maj. Christopher Tampos said.
The military condemned the attack as a treacherous act.
The attack was launched despite a planned resumption of long-stalled peace talks early next year in Norway, which has been brokering the talks.
"This is a very unfortunate event especially this Christmas season," Villanueva said. "This is the sacrifice that our soldiers take in pursuit of peace."
Tampos said the Maoist rebels wanted to get back at government troops after taking a beating from recent offensives in Northern Samar, an impoverished province 300 miles (480 kilometers) southeast of Manila. Troops have captured at least 20 rebel jungle encampments in the region in recent months, he said.
The Philippines` 41-year Marxist rebellion has been one of Asia`s longest and bloodiest. More than 120,000 combatants and civilians have died in the rural-based rebellion.
Peace talks have been suspended since 2004 after the rebels accused the government of instigating their inclusion on U.S. and European terrorist lists.
Hopes were raised for the resumption of talks with the communist insurgents, as well as with Muslim separatist rebels, after the country`s new and popular president, Benigno Aquino III, took office in June and reorganized the government peace panels.
A new government negotiator, Alexander Padilla, met with his rebel counterpart, Luis Jalandoni, in Hong Kong recently and agreed to the Christmas cease-fire and talks in January to discuss the planned resumption of formal negotiations the following month.