Communist rebels ambush Philippine troops

Communist guerrillas ambushed a truckload of army troops taking part in a manhunt for rebels who briefly held a town mayor, sparking a clash that killed one rebel and wounded five soldiers, a military official said Tuesday.

An undetermined number of New People's Army guerrillas opened fire on the army truck Monday near Lingig town in Surigao del Sur province, said Lt. Col. Francisco Simbajon, spokesman for the army's 4th Infantry Division.

The army troops were en route to reinforce soldiers hunting a group of guerrillas who briefly held Lingig Mayor Jimmy Luna on Sunday to gain entry to the town's police station, where they seized a cache of assault rifles and grenades, Simbajon said.

After the raid, the rebels, dressed in army uniforms, fled toward the hinterland in Surigao del Sur, about 280 kilometers (175 miles) southeast of Manila, aboard a number of vehicles, including one taken from Luna, police said.

The rebels had disarmed Luna's bodyguards but did not harm them or the policemen at the station, officials said.

National police chief Arturo Lomibao relieved the provincial police chief and the entire police force of Lingig, which has about a dozen officers, for failing to put up an adequate defense against rebel attacks, police spokesman Leopoldo Bataoil said.

The guerrillas trumpeted the successful attack, saying it demonstrated they could deal setbacks on the military and police despite Washington's training and arming of Filipino counterinsurgency forces.

The guerrillas, who are blacklisted by Washington as terrorists, have intensified attacks in recent months in an effort to bring about the downfall of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as she faces resignation calls over vote-rigging and corruption allegations, reports the AP.

I.L.