45 bodies of hostages killed by gunmen in S Philippines recovered

08:18, November 24, 2009      

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Philippine security forces have recovered 45 bodies of people that include politicians and journalists abducted Monday in a pre-election related incidence in restive southern Philippine province of Maguindanao, a local official said.

Ibrahim Mangudadatu, mayor of Buluan Township in Maguindanao whose love ones were among the fatalities, told reporters after he personally went to the site along with police and military that there were no survivors in the stunning pre-election-violence in the south.

He said there he did not see any of the victims beheaded by their captors.

Earlier, reports said Jenalyn, the wife of Buluan town vice mayor Esmail Mangudadatu; Esmail's sisters Eden, Rowena and Farida; his lawyers Cynthia Oquendo and Connie Brizuela; and Mr. Oquendo, the father of Cynthia, were among those who were abducted and killed.

Esmail, who will run for governor of Maguindanao in next year's elections, was supposed to file certificate of candidacy at the office of Provincial Commission on Elections. But his family offered to file the certificate of candidacy on his behalf, as Esmail has been allegedly receiving death threats from his political rival.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Ponce, a local military spokesman, said they presumed the incident is a case of political violence.

"There's an operation right now to track down the attackers. We are working hand in hand with the police," he said.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's adviser for Mindanao, Jesus Dureza, described the incident as open war for families involved.

The international media group Reporters without Borders condemned the incident.

"Never in the history of journalism have the news media suffered such a heavy loss of life in one day. We convey our condolences and sympathy to all journalists in the Philippines, who are in state of shock after this appalling massacre," the media group said in a statement.

"We have often condemned the culture of impunity and violence in the Philippines, especially Mindanao. This time, the frenzied violence of thugs working for corrupt politicians has resulted in an incomprehensible bloodbath. We call for a strong reaction from the local and national authorities," the group said.

Nonoy Espina, vice-president of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, said the government must without question bring those responsible for this massacre to justice, not just the killers but also the masterminds, whoever they are.

Source: Xinhua
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