Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) – The Muslim clan accused of the massacre of 23 November in the province of Maguindanao in the southern Philippines, are believed to be responsible for 200 other homicides. This according to the National Commission for Human Rights, which has denounced that the discovery of several mass graves in areas controlled by Ampatuan.
Leila de Lima, President of the Commission confirms "at least 200" politically motivated assassinations linked to the Ampatuan clan, a political ally of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and power in the province since 2001.
The bodies are buried in several mass graves, scattered in the province of Maguindanao. The cases have emerged only now, following the arrest of Andalo Ampatuan Jr. - son of the powerful local governor - because witnesses did not report them "for fear of retaliation."
Among the 57 civilians killed in the attack on 23 November were relatives and supporters of Ishmael "Toto" Mangudadatu, vice-mayor of Buluan and candidate for governor of Maguindanao, of which 26 are women and 32 journalists. The police reports that "161 people are suspected of having taken part in the massacre.
Under the martial law in force in the province, the police have arrested 62 people, including clan leader Andalo Ampatuan Sr. Those arrested will have to answer to charges of rebellion and murder.
The Ampatuan family, with the government approval, set up its own army and ruled unchallenged for years in the province. It was a decision made by Manila in an attempt to contain the rebellions of Muslim separatists.
Following the massacre, Arroyo has removed all agreement with the clan: the Maguindanao province is under martial law and the Ampatuan face charges of rebellion.