Communist rebels on Saturday blamed President Corazon Aquino for the upsurge in attacks by right-wing death squads on leftists and human rights activists, and they pledged reprisals.

Government troops killed at least 15 rebels in separate clashes on the main island of Luzon and on southern Mindanao island, the military said."The Aquino government and its U.S. backers cannot escape their full responsibility for the crimes committed by forces of state terrorism against the people," the National Democratic Front said in a statement sent to news agencies.

"At the same time, unofficial death squads have killed a mounting number of prominent individuals who had courageously made common cause with their suffering countrymen," it said.

The front, the political wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines, said it is futile for victims of right-wing extremists to expect justice from Aquino's government. It urged them to support the 19-year-old communist insurgency instead.

On July 2, gunmen believed to be right-wing extremists assassinated human rights lawyer Emmanuel Mendoza in Manila. Mendoza was the third human rights lawyer to be killed in two weeks in the Philippines.

On June 30, Nemesio Prudente, a leftist university president, was seriously wounded in an ambush. The ambush, the second on Prudente in seven months, left three of his security aides dead and five others wounded.