Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Police name 161 suspects in Maguindanao massacre

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / December 9, 2009) – Philippine police on Wednesday said at least 161 people took part in the brutal slaying of dozens of journalists and election campaigners in last month’s attack on a political caravan in Maguindanao province.

Police chief Jesus Verzosa said they have identified most of the suspects, including a number of soldiers, policemen and government militias under the control of the powerful Ampatuan clan.

“We have so far identified 161 suspects, who directly participated in the gruesome massacre,” he said at press conference in Manila.

Verzosa also showed photographs of all those tagged as behind the November 23 mass murders and gory pictures of the victims who were shot in the head and chest.

He said the mayor of Datu Unsay town, Andal Ampatuan Jnr, was tagged as the mastermind in the killings, while his father Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Snr, and brothers Zaldy Ampatuan, the governor of the Muslim autonomous region, and Anwar Ampatuan, the mayor of Shariff Aguak, and Sajid Ampatuan and other clan members are also implicated in the murders.

Many of those killed, he said, were shot at close range, and those that were still alive had been shot and finished off by Ampatuan Jnr.

The mayor surrendered three days after the massacre and is facing multiple counts of murder charges; and the others had been arrested after President Gloria Arroyo put Maguindanao under martial law. The Ampatuans denied all the charges against them.

Hundreds of light artillery and heavy infantry weapons and close to half a million rounds of ammunition were also unearthed in the Ampatuan stronghold of Shariff Aguak town and were believed owned by the powerful political clan.
The head of the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights, also said that the Ampatuan clan could be behind extrajudicial killings of as many as 200 people in Maguindanao.

The country’s largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, previously accused the clan as behind the murders of many innocent civilians, mostly farmers in Maguindanao whose rice lands had been illegally grabbed by the Ampatuans. The accusations could not be immediately confirmed. (Mindanao Examiner)

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