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Philippine army troops have killed six communist guerrillas in a clash in the country's mountainous north in the latest flare-up of the 43-year-old Marxist insurgency.

Army officer Lt. Col. Steve Crespillo says soldiers patrolling near the mountain village of Bayawel were fired upon by about 15 New People's Army guerrillas on Saturday. The soldiers returned fire and there was an hourlong gunbattle.

Crespillo said Sunday that villagers told the soldiers they saw at least six slain rebels, including a woman, being carried by their comrades.

The rural-based insurgency is one of Asia's longest-running. It has been weakened considerably by battle setbacks, surrenders and factionalism but remains the country's leading security threat.