Philippines says rebels violating typhoon truce

The Philippine government on Saturday accused Maoist rebels of violating a self-imposed truce in typhoon-hit areas with attacks on government forces involved in rescue and relief work.

The New People's Army guerrilla group began a 29-day unilateral ceasefire on December 5 to allow what it said would be unhampered rescue and relief work for victims of Typhoon Bopha that had struck the previous day.

However, the government said the rebels had launched three attacks in typhoon-devastated areas within four days of the supposed truce.

An NPA raid on a police station in Rizal town on the western island of Palawan on Wednesday left one police officer dead and another wounded, said a Philippine government panel involved in stalled peace talks with the rebels.

"We denounce this clear violation of their self-imposed ceasefire," it said in a statement.

In a second episode two female children of a soldier who had lost his home in the typhoon were abducted, but were freed unharmed a day later, said Lieutenant-Colonel Lyndon Paniza, military spokesman for the area.

NPA guerrillas stopped the family on December 9 as the soldier evacuated his daughters, aged 14 and 12, after a flood washed away their home in San Isidro town on the southern island of Mindanao, he said.

A third attack came when an army unit delivering relief goods to Mindanao typhoon victims was ambushed by the NPA near the town of Talaingod on December 6. There were no casualties, Paniza said.

"It seems that this (truce announcement) is just for publicity purposes," he told AFP.

The communists have been waging an armed rebellion since 1969, and more than 30,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the government.

The government suspended peace negotiations with the rebels in November last year due to rebel demands for the release of jailed comrades.

The military estimates the NPA's current strength at about 4,000 fighters, significantly down from more than 26,000 at its peak in the 1980s.

The armed forces are at the forefront of rescue and relief efforts following the typhoon -- the country's worst natural disaster this year -- which left 955 people dead and 841 others missing, according to the civil defence office.

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