Philippine police plan to ask Muslim separatist rebels holding peace talks with the government to help catch 92 suspects in the country's worst political massacre.
Philippine police to ask rebels to catch massacre group
MANILA // Philippine police plan to ask Muslim separatist rebels holding peace talks with the government to help catch 92 suspects in the country's worst political massacre, a police spokesman said yesterday.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country's largest armed rebel group, would be asked to provide manpower in tracking down the remaining suspects in the 2009 massacre of 58 people.
The MILF vice chairman, Ghadzali Jaafar, said his group would have to take up the request with its top leadership before deciding.
"We will have to meet in the central committee. We are an organisation, we decide collectively," he said.
Members of the Ampatuans, a powerful Muslim clan, allegedly carried out the massacre in the southern Philippines to prevent a rival, Esmael Mangudadatu, from running against one of their members in upcoming elections.
The Ampatuans and their followers shot dead 58 people including Mr Mangudadatu's wife and sisters, their lawyers and accompanying journalists in the southern province of Maguindanao.
Many key Ampatuan members are now being tried over the murders but other suspects remain at large.
The Ampatuans were allowed by the government to amass a private army to act as a bulwark against anti-government forces such as MILF.
Keith Singian, the Maguindanao police chief, said suspects are believed to have fled to MILF-controlled areas in the south.
"We have confirmed that some of these at-large suspects sought refuge in the areas of the MILF, so we will try to coordinate with the peace process panel if they can help us track these suspects," he said.
Mr Mangudadatu, who was elected governor of Maguindanao after the massacre, said sources told him some suspects were being protected by relatives in MILF.
Last month, the government and the 12,000-member MILF signed a "framework agreement" to pave a way for a final peace accord, ending decades of fighting for an Islamic state in the southern Philippines.
However both sides say lengthy talks still lie ahead before a final peace pact is signed.
The 2009 massacre shocked the nation. But prosecutors and rights groups have warned that the trials, which began in 2010, will drag on for years because of delaying tactics by the defence and the overburdened justice system.