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Philippine military says operations have weakened communist guerrillas, but still a threat

Philippine military says operations have weakened communist guerrillas, but still a threat

Communist guerrillas lost about 1,000 fighters in 2007 but continue to be a thorn in the side of the government by launching attacks against Philippine forces, a military report said Sunday.
The number of New People's Army guerrillas dropped this year to slightly more than 6,000 _ the lowest level in 12 years. The insurgents were killed in battle, arrested, or surrendered, the report said.
Thirteen rebel bases were also lost, leaving 87 strongholds nationwide, it said.
The communist guerrillas have been waging a rural-based insurrection for a Marxist-led state for 39 years _ one of Asia's longest-running insurgencies. They withdrew from peace talks in 2004 after accusing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's government of instigating their inclusion on U.S. and European Union terrorist lists.
Arroyo has ordered the 120,000-strong military to neutralize the communist insurgency by 2010.
Meanwhile, guerrillas ambushed a marine convoy bringing supplies to a camp in southwestern Palawan province on Saturday, wounding one soldier, spokesman Lt. Col. Jonas Lumawag said.
The rebels rejected a 22-day Christmas cease-fire unilaterally declared by the military, calling it a sham and vowing to intensify attacks. They said cease-fires in the past have been used by soldiers to launch surveillance and counterinsurgency operations.
The rebels killed three marines in a road ambush in Palawan at the start of the Dec. 16-Jan. 6 cease-fire. A week later, they attacked a town in central Samar province, killing a pro-government militiaman and seizing a number of assault weapons, the military said.