MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine officials say at least 15 suspected communist rebels disguised as police fatally shot a northern town mayor and his two bodyguards during a flag-raising ceremony.

Police say the attackers scattered leaflets denouncing mining in northern Cagayan province. Provincial police chief Gregorio Lim says police were pursuing the gunmen and were looking into the possibility the killing was related to communist rebels’ opposition to mining activities.

Military commander Maj. Emmanuel Garcia said Gonzaga town Mayor Carlito Pentecostes Jr. and his bodyguards died on the spot Monday. A firefight ensued but the gunmen escaped in a commandeered police car.

The rebels have been fighting for 45 years against government forces and mining companies, accusing them of failing to improve the lives of the poor.