MANILA – The Philippine military is investigating the alleged role of three foreign women in a communist guerrilla ambush that left seven soldiers dead last weekend, an army spokesman said Tuesday.
Three white women were seen in the company of a New People's Army (NPA) guerrilla unit that clashed with soldiers in the northern province of Isabela on Saturday, said regional military spokesman Colonel Loreto Magundayao.
"The chief of our intelligence confirmed that there were three white women. Our intelligence is protecting their source but we have confirmed it and they have evidence," he told AFP.
The identities, nationalities as well as the motives of the women were not yet clear, the colonel said.
Local radio stations quoting civilians on the scene have reported one of the three women was wounded in the clash, and that all three were armed, but Magundayao said he could not confirm those details.
Seven army soldiers were killed in the skirmish, which also left eight other soldiers wounded, according to the government.
The allegations come as the military continues its decades-long struggle against the country's Maoist insurgent movement.
The communists have been waging a rebellion since 1969, and more than 30,000 people have died in the conflict, according to official figures.
The insurgents have an international office in the Netherlands and have previously boasted of having supporters among leftist groups abroad.
However there have been no previous reports of foreigners fighting alongside the NPA.
The military estimates the NPA's current strength at about 4,000 fighters nationwide, significantly down from over 26,000 at its peak in the 1980s.
However, the NPA retains support particularly in impoverished rural areas.
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