Muslim rebels concealing massacre suspects in S. Philippines

15:05, July 31, 2010      

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Muslim separatist rebels in southern Philippines are reportedly coddling suspects involved in the country's worst massacre that left at least 57 people dead, including 30 journalists, a military official said Saturday.

Randolph Cabangbang, spokesman for the military's Eastern Mindanao Command, told Xinhua by phone that elements of Moro Islamic Liberation Front are protecting militias of Muslim clan implicated in the massacre on Nov. 23, 2009 in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao.

The military official said massacre suspects have relatives in the 11,900-strong rebel group engaged in peace talks with Manila.

"That's the reason we are finding hard to catch them because they are in the rebel group," Cabangbang said.

However, Mohagher Iqbal, chief negotiator of the rebel group, denied the military's accusation, saying they have strict orders for their field commanders not to accept anyone involved in the massacre.

"That's not true. We cannot coddle hundreds. They have relatives in our organization but it does't mean we will protect them," Iqbal told Xinhua.

"We cannot prevent them from staying in our controlled area. The problem is that the military is not serious in the man hunt against them. They already know the exact place where they are hiding," Iqbal added.

Of the 196 people implicated in the mass killings, 62 of them have already been detained.

The 134 other suspects, 96 of them from civilian volunteer organization, 23 from the clan of Ampatuan and allies, 12 policemen and four government soldiers remain at large.

Former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., his son, former Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., his other son, Zaldy Ampatuan, the former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, have been jailed.

Among those killed in the massacre were wife of Maguindanao Governor Ismael Mangudadatu, his sisters, supporters and at least 30 journalists. The group was waylaid on their way to the local Commission on Election office to file Mangudadatu's certificate of candidacy for governor.

Source: Xinhua


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