x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

New arrest made in Philippine massacre

The suspect, Salipada Tampugao, is a former member of the private army of the Ampatuan political clan, who are accused of masterminding the country's worst political mass killing in November 2009.

COTABATO // Another suspect in the Philippines' worst political massacre was arrested on Saturday, a local police chief said, but scores more remain at large.

Salipada Tampugao, a former member of the private army of the Ampatuan political clan, was arrested in the southern city of Cotabato almost a year after the massacre of 57 people, allegedly by the Ampatuans.

The suspect tried to escape when he was spotted at a police checkpoint but was nabbed by police, said Senior Superintendent Willie Dangane.

Tampugao admitted being a former armed "civilian volunteer" working for the Ampatuan political clan, but denied being involved in the November 23, 2009 massacre in Maguindanao province, said Dangane.

Armed followers of the Ampatuan clan are accused of gunning down members of a rival clan as well as lawyers and 32 media workers to prevent a rival politician from challenging them in elections in May.

The arrest of this suspect still leaves 118 other suspects in the massacre, at large, said Dangane.

Several members of the Ampatuan clan as well as several police officers loyal to them and members of the family's private army are among 196 people accused of being involved in the massacre.

Six clan members and several police officers and armed followers are being tried for the murders. Witnesses have said the clan planned the massacre in advance and brutally gunned down the victims as they pleaded for mercy.

The Ampatuans ruled Maguindanao province for over a decade under the patronage of former president Gloria Arroyo, who used the clan and its militia as a proxy force to help contain Muslim separatist rebels.

* AFP