MANILA  - Seven Filipino soldiers were killed and eight others wounded Saturday in a clash with communist guerrillas who are waging a decades-old Maoist insurgency, the military said. The army casualties were part of a foot patrol that clashed with New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in a remote area of Isabela province on the main island of Luzon, said Philippine Army spokesman Colonel Cirilito Sobejana. “They were on security operations, combat operations. We have inserted reinforcements by helicopter and are picking up the casualties,” Sobejana told reporters in Manila. He added residents had told the army up to five guerrillas were also killed, but said no bodies of any rebels were found when the army casualties were evacuated. Fighting has broken out in two areas of the northern province of Isabela amid efforts by the government to restart stalled talks aimed at ending one of Asia’s longest-running rebellions. Sobejana said the deadly skirmish occurred during the army’s patrol at dawn near the mountainous town of San Geronimo. NPA rebels also clashed Saturday with another army unit in the adjacent town of San Mariano, but there were no known casualties there, the military spokesman said.

Peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front, the rebels’ front organisation, were due to have resumed in Norway last month.