12 slain in communist rebel attack in Philippines

DAVAO, Philippines - Ten members of the security forces and two communist insurgents were killed in a string of guerrilla attacks targeting Philippine police and military on Monday, officials said.

At least 50 New People's Army (NPA) rebels overwhelmed a small group of policemen at the police station in Matanao on the southern island of Mindanao at dawn, said local military spokesman Captain William Rodriguez.

"They fell on the town riding trucks and a small bus, about 50 of them... thirty minutes later (other) rebels also attacked a (local military) detachment but they were not successful there," he told reporters.

An AFP photographer saw bloodstains on the floor in front of the police station, while ripped pieces of paper lay scattered on the hallway.

Two policemen were killed and three others wounded in the raid on the police station itself, while the two of the raiders, who were wearing military uniforms, also died, Rodriguez said.

One of the three wounded policemen later died in hospital, a military statement later said in an updated official toll.

Seven soldiers died and another seven were wounded about five hours later when their vehicle triggered a roadside bomb as they pursued the retreating rebels, the military spokesman said.

The AFP photographer saw a disabled camouflage-hued military truck sitting in the middle of the road amid civilian vehicle traffic in the afternoon, hours after the bomb attack.

The truck's windshield and hood were riddled with bullet holes.

Rodriguez said the rebels stole 10 firearms from the police armoury in Matanao, a hilly farming town of about 52,000 people located about 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) south of the Philippine capital Manila.

In total, about 100 guerrillas were estimated to have taken part in the coordinated attacks, said Senior Superintendent Ronaldo Llanera, the police chief of Davao del Sur province.

Nine suspected NPA guerrillas were later arrested as the security forces in Davao del Sur put up checkpoints to try and catch the raiders, Rodriguez said.

The government estimates that the armed insurgency has claimed about 30,000 lives since it began in 1969 in a guerrilla campaign to overthrow the government and establish a Maoist regime.

However the military says the guerrillas' armed force is down to about 4,000 fighters from more than 26,000 in the late 1980s.

The rebels remain active in the hinterlands of the Philippine archipelago, attacking the military and police as well as rural businesses that resist their extortion demands.

The Philippine government has engaged the Maoist rebels in on-and-off peace negotiations since the 1980s but the talks have repeatedly stalled due to what the government says are conditions imposed by the insurgents.

The last attempt to revive the talks ended with the government declaring that they had collapsed in April 2013.