Maoists raid logging firm in Philippines, 23 dead
Manila: Communist guerrillas raided and torched a logging company in the southern Philippines and killed at least 12 people in a shootout with security forces, officials said on Friday.
At least 11 New People's Army (NPA) guerrillas were also killed in Wednesday's battle, in Surigao del Sur province on the southern island of Mindanao, Army spokesman Major Michele Anayron said.
"We lost eight soldiers when our reinforcement was ambushed, but we killed 11 rebels in the counter-attack," Anayron said, adding four people were killed in the initial raid.
Anayron said the rebels attacked a logging company in Lanuza town, killing three private security guards and a police officer and torching facilities and equipment.
Troops from a nearby Army base rushed to the area but were ambushed.
Philippine security forces launched a counter-offensive to pursue rebels who withdrew after the attacks, catching them in nearby mountains, said Lino Calingasan, the regional police chief.
"Our forces recovered only one body but we have information that 10 other rebels were killed in the encounter," he added.
The 4,000-member NPA, the country's main communist armed group, has stepped up offensives in the south after efforts to revive peace talks stalled between the government and National Democratic Front (NDF), the rebels' political arm.
Active in nearly all the country's 80 provinces, the Maoist-led rebels have been waging a protracted guerrilla war to overthrow the democratically elected government for about 40 years.
The conflict has killed more than 40,000 people and scared away potential investors.