Rebels kill five in attack on Philippine mine

Communist insurgents attacked a major mining company in the central Philippines, killing five soldiers and burning equipment and buildings the military said Saturday, as hopes for peace dimmed further.

The attack came just days after the chief government peace negotiator said talks with communist rebels had collapsed, ending hopes of achieving peace after a 44-year insurgency before President Benigno Aquino's term ends in 2016.

Fighters of the New People's Army (NPA) attacked the Philex Mining site on the island of Negros, burning two bunkhouses and heavy equipment on Friday, said military spokesman Captain Leo Christopher Cunanan.

The military pursued the attackers leading to a clash on Saturday that left five soldiers dead and two others wounded, Cunanan said in a statement.

The rebels took six firearms from the fallen soldiers, the captain said.

The reason for the attack was not clear, but in the past the NPA have raided mining companies and other rural businesses which refused to pay their extortion demands.

No spokesman for Philex, the Philippines' largest gold miner, could be contacted for comment.

Aquino's spokesman Edwin Lacierda on Saturday accused the insurgents of insincerity for offering peace talks even as they stepped up their attacks.

"They have a forked tongue. If they want peace, why are they calling for... intensifying the violence? The truth is even when we were talking, they were continuing their attacks," Lacierda said on government radio.

Aquino wanted to seal a peace deal to end the decades old insurgency, which has claimed an estimated 30,000 lives, but chief negotiator Alex Padilla said on Monday that the talks were at an impasse.

The communist leadership, however, said it was the government that called off the talks and warned of intensified strikes by the NPA.

The military estimates the rebels have only about 4,000 fighters nationwide, down from more than 26,000 at their peak in the 1980s.

However, they remain a danger, particularly in rural areas where they can count on support from local populations who endure the worst of the country's poverty.

The rebels have become more active ahead of next month's mid-term elections where they have been extorting money from politicians in return for letting them campaign.

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