Manila: Sixteen people, including 11 soldiers, were injured in a landmine explosion that was blamed on communist rebels in the southern Philippines, reports said.

Members of the Philippine Army’s 39th infantry battalion had clashed with suspected members of the communist New People’s Army when the explosion happened at village Managa, Bansalan town, Davao del Sur on Sunday, a military report issued on Monday said.

The civilian victims were five volunteers of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC), the report said, adding they were brought to a nearby hospital.

Last Saturday, NPA leader Isabel Fermiza claimed responsibility for a landmine blast that injured three policemen who were escorting a town mayor in Cotabato, southern Philippines last Thursday.

However, she denied reports that the attack was meant for Mayor Jaime Mahimpit of President Roxas town in Cotabato, adding the policemen were the group’s true target.

But Police Senior Inspector Bernabe Rubio, chief of police of President Roxas town, claimed the communist rebels had waited for the mayor’s convoy.

Members of the NPA have been intensifying attacks following the construction of a three-kilometre long road in Datu Inda village, said Rubio.

The NPA is the armed wing of the 46-year old Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The CPP-NPA’s political arm, the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the Philippine government have been holding on and off peace talks since 1992.

A member of the European Union has been brokering the talks.

The Philippine government’s negotiations with the NDF were sidelined with the government’s focus on forging a peace settlement with the former secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Malaysia, a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), has been facilitating the Philippine government-MILF peace talks that began in 1997.