Bombs defused near Philippine massacre site

MANILA, Philippines — Authorities in the restive southern Philippines defused five roadside bombs near the site of a 2009 massacre Wednesday, the day relatives of the 57 victims marked the second anniversary of the killings.

By (AP)

Published: Wed 23 Nov 2011, 9:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 12:22 AM

No casualties were reported but tensions were running high. About 200 policemen were deployed to secure the massacre site and the immediate vicinity with dozens of people attending the commemoration ceremonies.

Provincial Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, whose relatives were among the dead, canceled a visit to the massacre site in Ampatuan township in Maguindanao province, saying ‘We’re taking no chance.’

‘I was about to go there but the provincial director advised me to refrain from going to the site,’ Mangudadatu said. He survived an August bomb attack that killed two people in the southern Philippines, where shooting incidents and bomb explosions are common.

According to a military report, two of the homemade bombs were made of 81 mm mortar shells and two-way radios to remotely detonate them. They were found along the national highway near a camp of Muslim rebels.

‘It looks like it’s aimed at scaring away or inflicting casualties among those planning to attend the anniversary,’ said military spokesman Lt. Col. Leopoldo Galon.

It wasn’t clear who was responsible for planting the explosives, but about 100 of the 197 people charged in the politically motivated 2009 killings are still at large.

Andal Ampatuan Sr., patriach of a powerful Maguindanao clan and former governor of an autonomous Muslim region, is among nearly 100 suspects being tried on murder charges in the massacre, together with his sons and relatives.

Gunmen allegedly led by former town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. stopped supporters of the Mangudadatu, the Ampatuans’ political rival, as they traveled to filed for candidacy in regional elections. They were led to a hilltop clearing, gunned down and hastily buried in mass graves. The dead included 32 media workers covering the Mangudadatu, making the massacre the worst single killing of journalists in the world.

Relatives and colleagues of the slain journalists visited the massacre site Tuesday to offer prayers and 58 white lilies and lit candles. The charge sheet lists 57 victims but the body of journalist Reynaldo Momay, who was also part of the convoy, was never found.

A Roman Catholic priest celebrated Mass at the mound where concrete markers bearing the names of dead were erected.

Muslim rebels have waged a bloody insurgency for self-rule in Maguindanao and other parts of the southern Mindanao region, the homeland of minority Muslims in the predominantly Catholic Philippines. The conflict has killed more than 120,000 people in nearly four decades.

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