Communist rebels in Philippines free 4 police officers seized in attack on station 3 weeks ago

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Communist guerrillas on Tuesday freed four police officers they abducted from a police station in the southern Philippines three weeks ago, the military said.

Regional military commander Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya said the New People's Army rebels released the police officers before dawn in a remote village in Kitcharao town in Agusan del Norte where a five-day cease-fire was declared to avoid clashes.

The freed officers were handed to Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Presidential Peace Process Adviser Teresita Deles then had a tearful reunion with their families.

The Maoist rebels, disguised as army soldiers, abducted the four officers July 10 from Alegria town's police station in Surigao del Norte province, also in the south. The attack on the station sparked fighting that killed three rebels and wounded two policemen. The rebels took away six firearms.

The rebels have been fighting since 1969 in one of Asia's longest-running Marxist insurgencies. Their numbers have dwindled, but the guerrillas are still regarded as the country's most serious security threat. They have intensified attacks against government forces, large mining companies and agricultural plantations in recent years.

A disagreement over a rebel demand for the release of detained guerrillas led to the collapse of peace talks brokered by Norway.