Three Philippine soldiers killed by land mine planted by communist rebels

Army troops on patrol in a remote southern village stepped on a land mine apparently planted by communist guerrillas, setting off a powerful blast that killed three soldiers and wounded five others, the military said Monday.

The New People's Army guerrillas opened fire on the troops shortly after the land mine blast Sunday in a village in San Luis in southern Agusan del Sur province, sparking a brief gunbattle that forced the rebels to withdraw, army Col. Francisco Simbajon said.

It was not known if the guerrillas suffered casualties, he said.

The Maoist guerrillas have vowed to intensify attacks hoping to bring about the downfall of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The rebels suspended Norwegian-brokered talks with the Philippine government in 2004 to protest Manila's refusal to ask the United States and Europe to remove them from a list of terrorist groups.

TheNew People's Army, with about 8,500 fighters, has been waging a Marxist rebellion since the late 1960s, reports the AP.