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Philippines cancels talks with communist rebels amid attacks

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KIDAPAWAN, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine government scrapped preliminary peace talks with communist rebel leaders in Europe due to continuing guerrilla attacks, including new violence Wednesday that killed a government militiaman and wounded at least four presidential guards in the country's south, officials said.

Presidential adviser Jesus Dureza said the meetings between government representatives and the rebels planned in the next few days in Europe were canceled because the conditions "necessary to provide the desired enabling environment for the conduct of peace negotiations are still not present up to this time."

It's the latest discord that has hampered talks between the guerrillas and the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has criticized the insurgents for pressing attacks on government forces and private businesses.

Duterte was not in the area when the clash involving members of his elite guards occurred in Arakan town in southern North Cotabato province, said Presidential Security Group commander Louie Dagoy. The 10 presidential guards were in two vehicles as part of a regular deployment of support staff, he said.

Presidential Security Group spokesman Lt. Col. Michael Aquino said the vehicles were approaching a checkpoint when they noticed that armed men in military uniforms manning it were rebels in disguise.

The presidential guards opened fire at the gunmen, who numbered around 50, sparking a clash that injured four guards, Aquino said. Police put the number of injured at five.

A militiaman who was not with the presidential guards was fatally shot when he tried to pass through the same rebel checkpoint, Arakan police chief Argie Celeste said.

Government forces were pursuing the rebels, who fled toward another village. One police agent was abducted by the rebels, police said.

The communist rebellion has raged for 48 years, one of the longest-running insurgencies in Asia.

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