Philippines condemns civilians deaths by rebel-laid landmine

FILE PHOTO: Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana listens to questions during a news conference inside the military headquarters of Camp Aquinaldo in Quezon city, metro Manila
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MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines' defence minister on Friday condemned the "senseless" killing of two civilians by an anti-personnel mine planted by communist rebels and vowed justice for the victims and their families.

Keith Absalon, 21 and cousin, Nolven Absalon, 40, were killed on June 6 when an anti-personnel mine exploded while they were biking in Masbate, in the central Philippines.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) took responsibility, blaming "errors in the military action" by a unit of its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA).

The Philippines is a signatory to the 1999 Ottawa Convention, or the Mine Ban Treaty."

"This incident is not a mere 'tactical error', as these mines were planted there to inflict pain and damage," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement.

He said it was proof of the NPA's "utter disregard for the safety of innocent civilians."

The national police chief has launched a manhunt to track those responsible.

Fighting between the NPA and military since 1968 has killed more than 40,000 people. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's peace effort has been repeatedly derailed.

Carlos Conde, Philippines researcher for Human Rights Watch, has said the incident "shows the terrible threat such weapons pose to all civilians.

(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty)