MANILA, December 1, 2010 (AFP) – Communist rebels hijacked a bus in the Philippines Wednesday, triggering a high-speed chase and a gunbattle in which four people were killed, police said.
The attack came on the same day that rebel and government negotiators met in Hong Kong in a bid to jumpstart peace talks that have been stalled since 2004.
The New People’s Army (NPA) rebels boarded the bus near San Francisco town, 200 kilometers (138 miles) south of Manila, and directed the driver to an area under their control, provincial police chief Superintendent Erickson Velasquez said.
Police and military personnel who were alerted to the hijack gave chase and the speeding bus was eventually stopped at an army checkpoint in a remote coastal area, Velasquez said in a statement.
The rebels fought back, triggering a gunbattle that left four people dead and two others wounded, according to Velasquez.
No details were immediately available as to the identity of those killed and wounded.
Authorities were also unable to say how long the chase lasted or how many people were on the bus when it was hijacked.
The 5,000-strong NPA is the armed unit of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which has been waging a Maoist rebellion since 1969 that has left thousands of people dead.
President Benigno Aquino, who came to power in June, has called for peace with the rebels, urging them to disarm and disband before being reintegrated into mainstream society.
It was unclear how Wednesday’s attack could affect the prospects of resuming peace talks, and negotiators from both sides were not immediately available for comment.