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PAGADIAN CITY – Security forces killed 2 suspected communist rebels in a clash in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga del Norte, police said on Monday.

Police said the weekend fighting broke out in the remote village of Panganuran in Sibuco town where security forces also recovered assorted rifle ammunition, camouflage uniforms and anti-government propaganda. The bodies of the slain gunmen were also retrieved by soldiers and policemen and handed over to village officials.

There was no report of casualties on the police and military side. The fighting coincided with President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement that he is now open to resume stalled peace talks with communist leaders, but said he will have to discuss this with the police and military.

Duterte scrapped the talks early this year after he failed to convince rebel peace negotiators to sign a bilateral truce. Communist peace negotiators said Duterte must first release some 500 political prisoners, mostly rebel leaders and members, languishing in jails across the country, before they agree on a cease-fire.

The President previously said he cannot pursue peace talks with rebels while they continue attacking government and military and police targets. He also threatened to launch fresh offensives against the New People’s Army (NPA), armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines, if they continue deadly attacks.

Rebels have flatly rejected Duterte’s cease-fire demand, saying, it is tantamount to surrendering to the government.  “Duterte’s demand for an NPA cease-fire while the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) conduct an all-out war as precondition for peace talks is a demand to surrender. This is an unacceptable. Duterte has lost all moral ground to make such a demand,” the CPP said.

The NPA declared a unilateral cease-fire in August last year – that lasted nearly 160 days – as a response to Duterte’s commitment to free the prisoners. But it accused Duterte of reneging on a promise to free all political prisoners and grant them amnesty. (Mindanao Examiner)

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