x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Philippines bomb attack on Ampatuan who split from clan

Mayor Akmad Ampatuan has split with the family clan, while relatives are being tried for the murders of supporters of their arch-rival, Esmael Mangudadatu.

An estranged member of the powerful Ampatuan clan in the Philippines, members of which have been accused of the country's worst political massacre, was the target of a bomb attack Sunday that wounded two people, officials said.

Akmad Ampatuan, mayor of Datu Salibo town, agreed that the bomb that exploded on a roadside in the southern province of Maguindanao, scene of the bloody massacre of 57 people almost a year ago, was aimed at him.

Some of the Ampatuan clan are now being tried for the murders, while the mayor has allied himself with the clan's arch-rival, the governor of Maguindanao, Esmael Mangudadatu.

The bomb, planted in a motorbike, went off in Sharif Aguak town minutes after Mr Ampatuan's car had passed by. The blast injured two bystanders, said Maguindanao's police commander, Senior Superintendent Marcelo Pintac.

"It was intended for the mayor, but he escaped unhurt including his six army escorts," Mr Pintac said.

Mr Ampatuan said he received an anonymous mobile phone text message earlier, warning him of a bomb attack.

"There was a text saying 'mayor, be careful because they will plant a bomb for you,' but I did not pay attention to it," he told reporters.

There were no immediate suspects in the blast but the mayor split with other members of the Ampatuan clan by backing Mr Mangudadatu when he ran successfully for governor in May.

Six Ampatuan clan members, their private army and police allies are among 196 people accused of murdering Mr Mangudadatu's relatives and lawyers, accompanying journalists and bystanders last year.

The group were killed to prevent them from registering Mr Mangudadatu's candidacy against an Ampatuan clan member in the gubernatorial elections.

Many of the accused are still at large and there is a growing clamour for the government to act more swiftly on the case as the first anniversary of the massacre draws near.