Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Surrender feelers dropped over Maguindanao as hunt vs. massacre suspects continues

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / December 8, 2009) – Philippine military choppers on Tuesday dropped thousands of feelers over a vast area in Maguindanao province urging armed followers of a powerful political clan – linked to the brutal murders of 57 people - to surrender peacefully.

“We have dropped feelers in the areas and urging armed followers of the Ampatuan clan to surrender peacefully,” said Colonel Jonathan Ponce, a spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

Security officials said thousands of troops and policemen were tracking down some 2,400 gunmen who are followers of the clan leader, Andal Ampatuan Snr, the governor of Maguindanao.

His son Andal Ampatuan Jnr, the mayor of Datu Unsay town, was said to have masterminded the mass murders. Among those killed were 30 journalists, and the wife and sisters, including supporters of a rival politician, Esmael Mangudadatu, the deputy mayor of Buluan town, who is a candidate for governor in Maguindanao.

President Gloria Arroyo placed Maguindanao under martial rule on December 4 and ordered the arrest of all those involved in the murders.

Police and military quickly arrested father and son along with Zaldy Ampatuan, the regional governor and his brothers Sajid Ampatuan and Anwar Ampatuan, the deputy governor of Maguindanao and Akmad Ampatuan, the mayor of Shariff Aguak and several clan members in connection with the mass murders, but they all denied the charges.

Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said multiple counts of murder charges were filed against the suspects, on top of rebellion cases being readied against them. Since martial law was declared, hundreds of high-powered weapons and close to a half million pieces of munitions were unearthed in shallow graves near the mansions of the Ampatuans, bolstering suspicions they belong to clan. (Mindanao Examiner)

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