People stand next to the bullet-riddled vehicle in which some members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were targeted by gunmen, in the town of Aracan, on the southern island of Mindanao, the Philippines, July 19, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
has threatened to end peace talks with communist rebels following an ambush attack on his military bodyguards, which killed one and injured five.
“The president directed the government panel… not to resume formal peace talks unless the reds (leftist rebels) agree to stop their attacks against government troops in Mindanao,” said a statement issued by the presidential palace on Wednesday.
It warned that for the formal peace talks to resume, the rebels had to commit to “suspending operations against the military and the police and stopping all their extortion activities on the ground.”
According to aides, the 72-year-old Duterte was not in the convoy when assailants opened fire on two Presidential Security Group vehicles along a highway on the main southern island of Mindanao, where martial law is in effect, earlier on Wednesday.
A file photo of members of the elite Presidential Security Group in full combat gear inspecting a vehicle passing through a gate of the Malacanang palace in Manila. (By AFP)
The government blamed the New People’s Army, a 4,000-strong armed wing of the Communist Party in the Philippines.
“This is part of their nationwide call for armed groups to oppose martial law by launching intensified offensives against government forces,” said a senior Mindanao military official, Brigadier General Gilberto Gapay.
The communist party reportedly called on its armed wing on Tuesday to launch offensives in response to Duterte’s plan to extend martial law on Mindanao until the end of the year.
The assault by the communist rebels came as government forces on Mindanao have been fighting Daesh militants in the southern city of Marawi since May 23.
The 60-day martial rule has been in effect on Mindanao as part of the military campaign in Marawi.
Duterte called for an extension of the martial law on Tuesday.
The communist insurgency in the Philippines began in 1968 and has so far claimed an estimated 30,000 lives. The militants have been in off-and-on peace talks with the government since Duterte rose to power last year.