Communist guerrillas attacked a central Philippine town hall Sunday, killing a pro-government militiaman and seizing several assault weapons in their latest defiance of a military-declared Christmas cease-fire, officials said.
About 50 New People’s Army guerrillas bombed a steel door then barged into the Hinabangan town hall at dawn then took an M16 rifle and two grenades from a court room in the two-story building, regional police commander Chief Superintendent Abner Cabalquinto said.
They also took boxes of antibiotics and flu medicine in the mayor’s office, he said.
A 70-year-old government militiaman was killed when he tried to fight the rebels from a nearby house, Cabalquinto said.
Another group of rebels simultaneously opened fire on a police station at the back of the town hall, sparking a one-hour firefight with five policemen armed only with pistols. Four policemen were later overwhelmed and disarmed but left unharmed, he said.
A fifth policeman, initially reported by the army as missing, was found hiding in the ceiling of the station, Cabalquinto told the Associated Press by telephone.
The policemen could have had a better chance of repelling the guerrilla attack if they had assault rifles. Their M16 rifles were taken on orders of the provincial commander recently, ironically due to fears they could be seized in a rebel attack, he said.
“Our policemen made a stand only with their pistols, but it was only a matter of time before they were overwhelmed,” Cabalquinto said.
Other guerrillas set up a road checkpoint and land mines to block the advance of reinforcement troops during the attack in Hinabangan in central Samar province, about 560 kilometers southeast of Manila.
Army troops and police were pursuing the Maoist rebels, Cabalquinto said.
“This incident once again proved that the NPA terrorists do not want peace to reign in our country,” army spokesman Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres said.
“It is our solemn pledge to go after these bandits and put an end to their atrocious acts,” Torres said, adding the rebel attack went against a unilateral 22-day Christmas truce declared by the 120,000-strong military.
Communist guerrillas have rejected the cease-fire, calling it a sham and vowing to intensify attacks against government forces. They said such cease-fires have been used by government troops in the past to intensify surveillance and counterinsurgency operations.
The rebels killed three marines in a road ambush in southwestern Palawan province at the start of the December 16-January 6 cease-fire, the military said.
The guerrillas, now about 6,000-strong, have been fighting for a Marxist-led state for 39 years. They withdrew from peace talks in 2004 after accusing the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s of instigating their inclusion on U.S. and European Union terrorist lists. (AP)