Gunmen killed 17 people and wounded at least 11 when they opened fire on mountain villagers attending evening prayers in a private chapel, the military said Thursday.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Jose Ayap blamed the attack on the communist New People's Army. But a survivor said villagers had received threats from government-backed, anti-communist vigilantes who suspected residents were rebel sympathizers.The dead included four children and two elderly women, officials and survivors said. A hospital spokesman said five of the wounded were in critical condition.

Survivors said the gunmen, some of whom were wearing fatigues, arrived Tuesday evening in the remote mountain village of Bagtik.