MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Rebels: Attack was a warning to rights abusers, mining firms

Published by MAC on 2005-06-15

Rebels: Attack was a warning to rights abusers, mining firms

Philippine Sun Star

June 15th 2005

Manila - Communist guerrillas claimed responsibility Wednesday for an attack that killed nine soldiers in the northern Philippines, saying it was punishment for the military's alleged human rights abuses in the area.

Armando Silva, a regional spokesman for the New People's Army, said the military has also allegedly been helping mining firms get into the mountainous area by convincing villagers not to resist them, despite fears of environmental damage.

Attackers fired on an army truck Monday near Cervantes town in northern Ilocos Sur province, killing nine soldiers and wounding three others.

The rebels claimed they seized seven M16 rifles during the attack, about 270 kilometers (165 miles) north of Manila.

The soldiers had been securing the site for a commemoration of a historic World War II battle. The attack forced the government to cancel the ceremony, which would have been attended by foreign diplomats and top officials.

On Wednesday, Silva said in a news release that the military unit in the areas has "a long list of human rights abuses." He cited abuses including the alleged rape of a villager and the mutilation of the body of a rebel killed in a fire fight.

"The successful tactical offensive serves as a warning to soldiers," the news release said, referring to Monday's attack.

Military officials were not immediately available for comment. They have condemned the rebels for such attacks in the past, saying they prove the insurgents are terrorists.

The communist guerrillas, listed as terrorists by the United States and European countries, suspended peace talks with the government in August to protest Manila's refusal to lobby for their removal from the terror lists.

The military estimates the rebels had more than 8,000 fighters last year. They claim they have a presence in nearly 70 of the Philippines' 79 provinces, despite military offenses. (AP)

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