MANILA, Philippines (AP) – Communist rebels threw two grenades at army troops helping treat villagers in the central Philippines, killing two soldiers and a civilian who covered a child with his body during the attack, the military said Sunday. The child survived with minor wounds, regional military spokesman Maj. Armand Rico said.

The rebels did not immediately comment. They have said previously they will not attack if civilians could get hurt.

Rico condemned the New People’s Army guerrilla attack Saturday in remote Polangi village in Northern Samar province, saying it targeted soldiers on a humanitarian mission.

Other soldiers returned fire until reinforcements arrived, prompting about 30 rebels to withdraw. Troops were pursuing the guerrillas, Rico said.

The 40-year-old communist rebellion is one of Asia’s longest, but the Philippine military has expressed confidence that it could end the fighting by the time President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo completes her term next year.

The communists have less than 5,000 fighters, down from about 25,000 in the 1980s due to battle setbacks and surrenders, the military says.

A peace process broke down in 2004 after the rebels claimed the Philippine government instigated their inclusion on U.S. and European lists of terrorist organizations.

AP-ES-05-31-09 0321EDT

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