x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Suspect in Philippine massacre charged with murder

Philippine prosecutors charged the heir of a powerful clan with massacring 57 people, more than half of them journalists or their staff.

MANILA // Philippine prosecutors charged the heir of a powerful clan with murder in the massacre of 57 people, more than half of them journalists or their staff. At least 10 witnesses will testify they saw Andal Ampatuan Jr leading the gunmen, including police officers, who blocked his rival's election caravan moments before the November 23 massacre, prosecutor Al Calica said. Hours later, troops found the bullet-riddled and hacked bodies near the highway sprawled in the grass and hastily buried in three mass graves together with three vehicles. Ampatuan turned himself in last week and denied the charges. He is the leader of a clan that has ruled southern impoverished Maguindanao province unopposed for years. His father, the family's patriarch, and six other family members also are considered suspects but have not been charged. Prosecutors initially filed 25 murder charges against Ampatuan in southern Cotabato city, whose regional trial court is nearest to the massacre site in Ampatuan township.

"The evidence is strong," Mr Calica said, adding that at least 10 witnesses provided written testimonies linking Ampatuan to the killings. *AP