Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Local Politician Named as Suspect in Philippines Massacre

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Local Politician Named as Suspect in Philippines Massacre

Article excerpt

Philippine security forces named a prominent politician, Andal Ampatuan Jr., as a prime suspect Wednesday in the investigation into a massacre of his political rivals in the southern island of Mindanao two days ago.

The naming of Mr. Ampatuan - a member of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's governing coalition - comes amid increasing pressure on Arroyo to pursue justice in a case that involves a close ally.

Monday's massacre in Maguindanao Province shocked the nation with its scale. In the attack gunmen surrounded and then shot a convoy of supporters of rival Ismael Mangudadatu as they traveled to register his candidacy for upcoming provincial elections.

On Wednesday Philippine security forces found 11 more bodies at the site of the massacre, raising the death toll to 57. President Arroyo declared a national day of mourning, and more security forces were deployed to the area to maintain order.

Though the police had earlier said the perpetrators were likely to be Ampatuan loyalists, Wednesday was the first time they specifically named Andal Ampatuan Jr., Agence France-Presse reported.

"According to the initial reports, those who were abducted and murdered at Saniag were initially stopped by a group led by the mayor of Datu Unsay," national police spokesman Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina said.

The mayor of Datu Unsay is Andal Ampatuan Jr., a member of Arroyo's ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD coalition and son of an extremely powerful regional politician...

The military had previously named bodyguards hired by the Ampatuan clan as the suspected gunmen in Monday's massacre....

However, the police spokesman's comments were the first time Ampatuan Jr has been specifically named as a top suspect in the massacre, which took place in a village on the outskirts of a town that bears the clan's name.

CNN adds that both the Ampatuan and Mangudadatu clans have agreed to participate in the government's investigation into the killings.

According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Philippine National Police are conducting a search for the man who operated the backhoe believed to have been used to bury some of the victims of Monday's attack. …

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