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Dumaguete City, PhilippinesMonday, January 7, 2013
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13 ‘criminals’ killed in
shootout with police

MANILA - Police in the Philippines killed 13 members of a criminal gang in a shootout yesterday, the third violent incident within days amid widespread calls for stricter gun controls.

The battle erupted after the gunmen in two vehicles tried to smash through a police checkpoint near the town of Atimonan, according to the national police headquarters' operations centre.

A police statement said one senior police officer was wounded and taken to hospital. It said 10 firearms were recovered from the gang members, including an M-16 assault rifle.

No other details of the incident in the town 173 km (108 miles) southeast of Manila were available.

The incident occurred two days after a drug-crazed former village official went on a shooting rampage, killing seven people and wounding 12 others, some of whom have life-treatening injuries.

Rolando Bae was himself killed in a subsequent shootout with police.

Also last week two children aged seven and four were killed by stray bullets fired during celebratory gunfire to welcome the New Year.

The incidents triggered public condemnation and calls for stricter controls on gun ownership, with official statistics estimating nearly 600,000 unlicensed guns across the Philippines.

Some 1.2 million licensed firearms were on the registry as of 2012.

Various civic groups as well as the influential Catholic church have called for a total ban on guns on the streets. President Benigno Aquino -- himself a gun aficionado -- has yet to respond to the demand.

Other groups called for the return of capital punishment, which the government banned in 2006.*AFP

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