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3 soldiers wounded in clashes with leftist rebels in Compostela

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - Three soldiers were injured following a series of clashes between government troops and leftist rebels in the southern Philippines today, police and military officials said.

The first clash occurred in a village in Monkayo town, in Mindanao's Compostela Valley province at 7:30 a.m. when patrolling Special Forces soldiers chanced upon some 30 New People's Army guerrillas, sparking an hours-long gunfight, Senior Superintendent Aaron Aquino, provincial police chief, said.

Two other skirmishes happened between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. as rebels who fled during the initial encounter ran straight into an SF team serving as a blocking force in the boundary of Monkayo and Laak towns, said Lieutenant Colonel Ferdinand Napuli, commander of a special forces battalion involved in the operations.

"We have three soldiers wounded but I think the (rebels) suffered heavier casualties. We are already cornering them. We expect more encounters in a few hours as they have no more way out, " Napuli said, adding troops recovered provisions such as foodstuffs from abandoned rebel positions.

The 4,000-strong New People's Army is fighting a 41-year leftist insurgency in 60 of the country's 80 provinces. The Philippine military has been putting pressure on the insurgents especially in gold-rich areas like Compostela Valley, where the rebels are said to be active.

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