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Philippines lifts martial law

President Gloria Arroyo has lifted martial law in a southern Philippine province where an election-linked massacre left 57 people dead.

President Gloria Arroyo has lifted martial law in a southern Philippine province where an election-linked massacre left 57 people dead, senior aides have announced. "Proclamation 1959 is lifted effective 9pm today (1pm GMT)," the executive secretary Eduardo Ermita told a news conference. Mrs Arroyo met her top security advisers earlier today and the meeting concluded that the government had achieved its main objectives in troubled Maguindanao province, which was placed under martial rule on December 4, Mr Ermita said.

The security forces said the regime, which empowered them to arrest suspects without court orders, has allowed them to take into custody many of the suspects in the November 23 massacre. The detained suspects were all relatives or supporters of the Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Snr. His son Andal Ampatuan Jnr has been charged with multiple counts of murder for allegedly ordering the kidnapping and subsequent shooting of 57 people including journalists and relatives of the clan's local rival Esmael Mangudadatu.

Mangudadatu has alleged the killings were carried out to prevent him running against the younger Ampatuan for governor of Maguindanao next year. The elder Ampatuan was among 24 people separately charged with rebellion later. "In in view of of these accomplishments ... the cabinet group recommended the lifting of Proclamation 1959 and the president has approved the recommendation of the cabinet security group," Mr Ermita said.

*AFP

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