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9 communist rebels killed in clashes

MANILA, Philippines - Government troops killed nine communist guerrillas during clashes Friday in the eastern Philippines after tracking them down based on tips from residents in the area, officials said.

These clashes were the latest eruption of violence in a 40-year Marxist rebellion that is one of the longest in Asia. The government says the rural-based insurgency has claimed about 120,000 lives and stunted economic growth.

Maj. Gen. Arturo Ortiz said soldiers encountered seven New People’s Army rebels early Friday in Albay province’s Manito township, triggering a heavy firefight that killed one of the gunmen.

Less than two hours later, another clash broke out in Pilar township in the nearby province of Sorsogon, leaving eight guerrillas dead. Eight high-powered guns were recovered.

No one was hurt among the ranks of soldiers in both clashes, said Ortiz, head of the military’s Special Operations Command.  

He said reinforcement troops have been sent to block the fleeing rebels, and to secure vital installations and government projects in the area.

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He thanked local residents for their cooperation.

The rebels could not immediately be reached for comment.

Negotiations between the rebels and the government collapsed in 2004 after the rebels blamed the government for their inclusion on US and European lists of terrorist groups. Both sides took steps to resume the talks in recent weeks but the efforts again fell apart. – AP

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