Philippine communist rebels announce cease-fires for Christmas and pope's visit

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MANILA, Philippines — Philippine communist rebels on Wednesday declared cease-fire periods for the Christmas holidays and for the visit of Pope Francis next month.

The Communist Party of the Philippines ordered its armed wing, the New People's Army, to halt offensives against soldiers and police on Dec. 24-26, Dec. 31-Jan. 1 and during the pope's visit on Jan. 15-19.

The military earlier this week announced a month-long cease-fire with the communist rebels through to Jan. 19, but said that operations against Muslim militants will continue.

The Communist Party said in a statement that the cease-fire for the pope's visit is "an opportunity for religious celebration and to raise outstanding issues such as military abuses and violations of human rights" and corruption.

The party will mark its 46th founding anniversary on Dec. 26. It launched the armed struggle in 1969.

The 45-year Marxist insurgency is one of the longest-running in Asia. Talks to end the fighting have stalled.

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