Communist rebels waging a decades-long insurgency in the Philippines killed 10 soldiers as the troops were returning to camp to observe a Christmas truce, the military said Wednesday.
Tuesday's attack by the New People's Army (NPA) on the central island of Samar came 48 hours before an 18-day ceasefire was to take effect, and as the opposing sides were preparing for a resumption of peace talks in February.
"They took advantage of the announcement of the ceasefire. The soldiers were pulling out of the area and they were treacherously ambushed," the soldiers' commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Noel Vestuir, told Agence France Presse.
"We will obey the suspension of military operations order, but our troops are now on pursuit operations with the help of police."
The communist New People's Army launched its uprising in 1969, and thousands of people have been killed throughout what has become one of Asia's longest-running insurgencies.
Tuesday's attack was the deadliest this year by the NPA, which has about 5,000 armed followers.
Vestuir said two other soldiers were wounded in Tuesday's ambush, which took place as the troops were hiking in mountainous terrain to their barracks.
The rebels planted landmines along the route, and fired at the soldiers from a hilly vantage point, according to Vestuir.
He said that hours after the Samar attack, NPA rebels in another central Philippine province ambushed a convoy of soldiers, but there were no casualties in that incident.
The attacks occurred on the same day that President Benigno Aquino's government announced it hoped to end the communist insurgency within three years.
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