PHILIPPINES

Gunmen kill 12 in ambush on Philippines mayor

Police blame clan disputes for the violence in the restive southern island of Mindanao ahead of midterm elections next month

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 April, 2013, 6:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 April, 2013, 1:48am
AFP

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Gunmen killed 13 people in an ambush on a Philippine mayor, officials said yesterday. It was the deadliest of a string of violent incidents that have marred campaigning for May elections.

The attackers opened fire on a truck carrying Mayor Abdulmalik Manamparan and his supporters on southern Mindanao island late on Thursday, local military commander Colonel Ricardo Jalad said.

"They killed my granddaughter," Manamparan, 62, said from his hospital bed, where he was being treated for a shrapnel graze to his head.

A daughter of the mayor was also among the those killed, Jalad said. Twelve were killed on the spot, another one died later, and 10 were left wounded, including the mayor, police said.

A police official blamed the violence on long-running clan disputes by Muslim families in the troubled south.

President Benigno Aquino's spokeswoman, Abigail Valte, said the authorities were attempting to establish the identities and motives of the attackers.

"We strongly condemn this act of violence," she said. "We appeal to the supporters of the different candidates to keep calm and continue to campaign for their particular candidates."

The ambush on a remote mountain road near Nunungan town, as the party travelled home from a campaign event, was the latest political violence ahead of midterm elections on May 13.

A running police tally lists 30 deaths from 45 other violent incidents reported since the start of the campaign in February.

In November 2009, members of a powerful clan on Mindanao abducted and killed 58 people including relatives of a local rival who was planning to challenge the clan leader in gubernatorial elections.

Manamparan is the mayor of the mainly Muslim town of Nunungan. He is standing for the lower post of vice-mayor. His son and namesake, who is running for mayor, was not among the ambush casualties.

The family is running against candidates backed by Aquino's Liberal Party. The mayor said he had a good idea who was responsible for the attack, but declined to discuss his suspicions.

Senior Superintendent Gerardo Rosales, the provincial police chief, said investigators were checking the involvement of certain clans that had disputes with the Manamparan family.

About 15 unidentified gunmen carried out the attack, Rosales said.

"[The survivors] identified the attackers last night, they gave us names ... They told us it was a family feud," Rosales said.

[The survivors] identified the attackers last night, they gave us names ... They told us it was a family feud

Colonel Jalad said the ambush was the first big incident of political violence in Nunungan in the past year.

However, he said Nunungan and nearby predominantly Muslim areas of Mindanao were blighted by occasional killings linked to decades-old clan wars.

Mindanao is also wracked by insurgencies waged by Muslim and communist rebels, and officials say that some of this year's election violence has been committed by communist guerrillas extorting money.

New People's Army rebels ambushed Ruth Guingona, the 78-year-old mayor of the southern city of Gingoog on Sunday, killing two aides and wounding her and two policemen.

More than 18,000 posts are at stake in the balloting.