Updated: 07/15/2014 18:56 | By Agence France-Presse

Sixteen dead in Philippines as communists, tribe clash

Sixteen people were killed in the Philippines on Tuesday when communist rebels clashed with armed tribesmen in one of the deadliest flare-ups of a decades-old insurgency in years, the military said.

Sixteen dead in Philippines as communists, tribe clash

New People's Army (NPA) guerrillas attend a ceremony to celebrate the 42nd anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of the Philippines, at a remote village in the southern island of Mindanao on December 26, 2010

New People's Army (NPA) guerrillas attacked the home of Calpito Egua in a remote area of the southern island of Mindanao but the tribal leader and his followers fought back, said local military spokesman Major Christian Uy.

"The datu (tribal chief) did not give in to their extortion demands," he told reporters.

Thirteen guerrillas, two tribesmen and a soldier from a military unit that went to help Egua's men were killed, Uy added.

Egua, the local leader of the Manobo mountain tribe, and a soldier were also slightly wounded in two hours of fighting, Uy said.

The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging an insurgency since 1969 that has left tens of thousands of people dead.

They are believed to have about 4,000 fighters, down from more than 26,000 in the 1980s.

Small clashes and raids frequently leave small numbers of people dead, but Tuesday's fighting was among the deadliest of the past decade. 

In 2012, 11 rebels were killed in a firefight with security forces near Manila.

The military spokesman for the region where Tuesday's fighting occurred, Captain Albert Caber, said the rebels were notorious extorters.

"They (rebels) extort and harass banana, pineapple and rubber plantations, as well as poultry farms and mining outfits. That's where they get their supplies," Caber told AFP.

He said Egua and his tribe ran a small-scale gold mining operation, but they had refused to pay money to the rebels.

NPA guerrillas also killed two Mindanao mayors in ambushes over the past two months.

President Benigno Aquino had aimed to reach a peace deal with the communists by the end of his term in 2016.

But the government last year said talks had collapsed due to rebel demands that detained comrades be freed.

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