Accessibility links

Philippines Captures Top Rebel Commander Ahead of Talks

Philippine Southern Luzon Command Chief Lt. General Roland Detabali, left, talks with captured senior communist rebel commander, Tirso Alcantara, at a military hospital in suburban Quezon City, 5 Jan 2011

Philippines authorities say they have captured the commander of Maoist rebel forces on the main island of Luzon.

Officials said Wednesday that Tirso Alcantara was wounded and captured at a checkpoint as he fled from a house south of Manila the previous night.

The arrest came a day after the expiry of a 19-day Christmas cease-fire between the rebels and the government of President Benigno Aquino. It was not immediately clear what impact it would have on planned peace talks between the rebels and the government scheduled to begin next month in Oslo, Norway.

The Associated Press said the underground Communist Party issued a statement Wednesday demanding that Alcantara be released before the talks can begin.

The statement said Alcantara is entitled to safe passage in his role as a consultant to the talks.

Government officials denied Alcantara's name was on a list of consultants submitted by the rebels. They also said the rebel commander was believed to be drawing up plans for a new offensive in hopes of increasing the group's leverage at the talks.

Alcantara is the highest ranking rebel leader to be captured in four years.