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Two rebels, soldier killed in Philippine clashes

Two communist rebels and a soldier have been killed in separate clashes as insurgents stepped up their attacks in the Philippines, military officials said Sunday.

New People's Army (NPA) rebels ambushed a group of soldiers in a remote village in Compostela Valley province in the southern island of Mindanao late Saturday, local infantry battalion chief Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Borja said.

One soldier was blown apart while seven of his colleagues were wounded in a landmine placed by the rebels in the ambush area, he said.

"The use of landmine by the NPA is another violation on the provisions of the international human rights law," Borja said.

Meanwhile, NPA rebels also attacked a column of soldiers on routine patrol in Quezon province just south of the capital Manila early Sunday, triggering a gun battle, army spokesman Major Harold Cabunoc said.

Two guerrillas were killed in the "running gun battle that ensued," he said.

In both cases, officials said the soldiers were responding to complaints by civilians of rebel harassments, including extortion activities.

The NPA is the armed unit of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging one of Asia's longest running insurgencies that began in 1969.

Last week, the guerrillas killed 11 soldiers and a civilian in a daring ambush of three army convoys led by a senior military official.

One of those killed in what was described as the NPA's most audacious attack in recent years was an army captain, but the apparent target -- a battalion commander -- survived the ambush.

The government last year boasted it had decimated the NPA ranks in many remote areas, putting its strength to about 4,000 fighters nationwide as of 2011 from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s.

Peace talks between the government and the rebels were suspended in November, when Manila rejected demands to free 18 guerrillas the NPA said were consultants to its negotiators.

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