Philippines will not meet deadline to crush rebels

The Philippine military announced Sunday that it could not meet a deadline this month to eradicate the Maoist rebellion, but said the number of rebels is at a historic low.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had ordered troops to crush the Maoist rebellion by the end of her term on June 30, but the military said about 4,000 New People’s Army guerrillas remain in five key regions nationwide. The military justified the failure by saying that the troops were also needed in other places. The Philippine army, despite being one Asia’s weakest, has also been battling Muslim guerrillas and al-Qaida-linked militants in the country’s south. Troops were also deployed to secure the May 10 presidential and local elections.

Peace talks between the rebels and the government brokered by Norway collapsed in 2004 after the rebels accused Arroyo’s administration of instigating their inclusion on U.S. and European terrorist blacklists.

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