Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Gunmen Ambush Preacher, Wife In Southern RP

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 31 Jan) Gunmen ambushed a Christian preacher and his wife who were on their way to a religious gathering in the southern Philippines, security officials said.

The couple -- Timothy Ariao, 46, and Delia Juebas, 39, -- was killed instantly after the gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons in the village of Patonoling in South Cotabato's Tupi town at the weekend, officials said.

"Authorities are still investigating the motive of the ambush and who were behind the killing," said Maj. Gamal Hayudini, a regional military spokesman.

He said two men attacked the couple with M16 rifle and .45-caliber pistol based on the empty shells that policeman and soldiers had recovered in the area. Ariao was a pastor for the Alliance Church, he said.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but bandits and communist insurgents are known to actively operate in the province. And it was not the first time that a religious man was killed in the southern Philippines.

In 1985, government militias in North Cotabato province killed Italian priest Father Tullio Favali and ate his brains. A Roman Catholic priest Father Benjamin Inocencio was shot dead by a suspected Abu Sayyaf militant in Jolo island in December 2000.

A Filipino priest Roel Gallardo was kidnapped and killed the same year in Basilan island. A year later, an Irish priest of the Columban order Father Rufus Halley was also killed by rebels in Lanao del Sur province on Mindanao island.

American missionary Martin Burnham was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf group in June 2001 and killed the next year in Zamboanga del Norte province. A US missionary was also killed along with 20 others in a bomb attack in March 2003 at the Davao airport in Mindanao.

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