Communists seize weapons, kill an officer in Philippines

Philippinian Communist guerillas attacked and killed an army officer and seized 29 riffles in in what they claim to be the most successful military attack this year.

About 50 New People's Army guerrillas attacked a pro-government militia patrol base late Tuesday near Banlag town in southern Bukidnon province, setting off a gunbattle that killed an army sergeant and wounded a militiaman, army spokesman Maj. Ernesto Torres said.

Several guerrillas were wounded during the clash and taken away by other rebels. An army platoon of about 30 soldiers was deployed to the site to secure the base and help pursue the attackers, he said according to the AP  report.

Among the firearms taken were M-16 and M-14 rifles, which are used by snipers, he said.

"This is a big debacle, definitely it will be investigated because so many firearms were taken," Torres said.

In June, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered an intensified campaign to finish off the estimated 7,000-strong NPA, which has been waging a rural-based rebellion for 37 years.

Her order came amid a spike in rebel attacks on military and police targets which the guerrillas say were partly aimed at capturing badly needed firearms.

The rebels, who claim to operate in nearly 70 of the Philippines' 79 provinces, broke off from Norwegian-brokered peace talks two years ago to protest the government's refusal to lobby for their removal from U.S. and European lists of terrorist groups.