MANILA - Communist rebels killed three soldiers and wounded 13 others in an ambush in a mountainous northern Philippine province, an army commander said Tuesday.

The rebels used land mines in the attack late Monday against about 30 soldiers traveling in a convoy of three army trucks in a remote village of Kalinga province's Pinukpuk township, said Brig. Gen Paul Atal, commander of the 503rd Brigade.

He said the rebels set off the land mines to disable the trucks and then fired on the soldiers, who fought back, wounding some of the guerrillas who withdrew in the dark.

Such hit-and-run tactics has been common in the 46-year-old insurgency, one of Asia's longest-running.

Atal called the use of land mines “a sign of cowardice.”

Communist rebels last week attacked a dozen mostly rural army outposts. Gunfights that ensued killed one guerrilla, while a police officer, a government militiaman and six villagers were wounded.

After he was installed commander of the army two weeks ago, Lt. Gen. Eduardo Ano promised to cut the strength of the rebels from about 4,200 to 1,000 by next year.

That is already sharply down from a peak of 25,000 in the mid-1980s as a major split in the Communist Party of the Philippines and battle losses have reduced the number of guerrillas.

Peace negotiations brokered by Norway between the rebels and the authorities have also stalled.