Suspected Maoist rebels kill Philippine town mayor

Associated Press

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines (AP) — Suspected communist guerrillas shot and killed a Philippine town mayor Wednesday while he was traveling in a convoy with army troops from a charity event, military officials said.

Regional military commander Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya said at least three New People's Army rebels opened fire with M16 rifles and wounded Mayor Mario Okinlay in his southern mountain town of Impasug-ong in Bukidnon province. Okinlay later died in a hospital.

An army battalion commander was among military personnel in the convoy but the mayor, who was riding on a motorcycle in front of two vans and an army truck, was the only one hit by rebel gunfire. The guerrillas fled when the soldiers returned fire.

Okinlay and the soldiers had come from a medical charity mission in a village and were returning to town when they came under attack, regional army spokesman Capt. Christian Uy said.

The Maoist rebels have been fighting since 1969 in one of Asia's longest-running Marxist insurgencies. Their numbers have dwindled amid battle setbacks, surrenders and factionalism, but the resilient guerrillas are still regarded the country's most serious security threat.

A disagreement over a rebel demand for the release of detained guerrillas led to the collapse of yearslong peace talks brokered by Norway.

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