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Philippine Communists Kill 13

June 28, 2000

JONES, Philippines (AP) _ Communist guerrillas killed an army brigade commander and 12 other soldiers who were returning from a medical mission, Philippine military officials said Wednesday.

``They did not come from combat, they helped treat poor people and still they were attacked,″ said army spokesman Hernando Iriberri.

The soldiers were returning in a convoy with doctors and nurses from providing medical care to impoverished villagers when they were ambushed in the town of Jones in northern Isabela province, officials said.

Among those killed was Col. Josefino Manayao, commander of the army’s 502nd brigade based in Isabela, a mountainous agricultural area about 185 miles north of Manila.

Rebels have escalated attacks in the northern Philippines in recent months to take advantage of troop reductions in the region caused by increased deployments to southern Mindanao island, where the government is battling Muslim separatist rebels, Iriberri said.

Armed forces chief Angelo Reyes ordered government troops to pursue the attackers and visited the ambush site Wednesday.

In a chapel at an army camp near Jones, Reyes prayed before the bodies of Manayao and the 12 other soldiers placed in a row of flag-draped coffins. He saluted as relatives of the slain men sobbed quietly at one side.

``This is a cowardly act,″ he said of the attack.

Communist rebels have been fighting for a Marxist state for 31 years. Last year, they called off peace talks with Manila after the Philippine Senate approved an accord that allowed the resumption of large-scale joint U.S. military exercises in the Philippines.

Since then, the rebels have intensified attacks on government and military targets.

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