MANILA » Suspected communist rebels shot and killed a police chief and four other officers in the northern Philippines after detonating roadside bombs under their patrol car, officials said Monday.
The attack Sunday killed the Rizal town police chief, his brother, wife and two other officers. Two police were wounded in the ambush, which came a week after Philippine government and communist rebel negotiators agreed to restart talks on ending the 42-year rural-based insurgency that has killed some 120,000 people.
Cagayan provincial police director Jose Francisco Villaroman said the slain police chief, Antonio Rueco, was able to use his mobile phone to call for help after he was shot by the rebels but rescuers arrived too late to save him.
"He was talking over the phone and suddenly, there was silence. It appears that the rebels finished him off," Villaroman said. "We are aghast by the brutality of the attack."
He said three improvised bombs exploded along the road as the police vehicle was passing, then the attackers opened fire. The rebels later fled toward a mountain hide-out, Villaroman said.
The rebels and the government met last week in Norway and agreed to resume formal negotiations in February. The government said the two sides would likely observe a cease-fire during those negotiations but so far the rebels have rebuffed calls for a more permanent truce in absence of a political agreement.
Talks between the two sides were suspended in 2004 when the rebels, who have fought for a Marxist state since 1969, withdrew from negotiations. They accused the government of instigating the inclusion of the Communist Party and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, on U.S. and European lists of terrorist organizations.
Government officials said upcoming discussions will likely include the guerrillas’ demand for the release of Tirso Alcantara, a senior rebel commander who was arrested just after the two sides ended a 19-day Christmas truce.
The rebels said that Alcantara, also known as Comrade Bart, should be released as a member of the negotiating panel.
But presidential peace process adviser Teresita Deles on Sunday refused to release him, saying his name did not appear on a list of guerrilla negotiators covered by an agreement granting them immunity from prosecution. He is also facing 23 warrants for murder.