12/03/2009, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Fresh troops sent to stop Maguindanao massacre culprits

by Santosh Digal
A 400-men battalion brings troop level to more than 3,000. Soldiers are to prevent members of Ampatuan clan from fleeing. Andal Ampatuan, the current provincial governor, is accused of ordering the 23 November massacre of 57 people.
Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In Maguindanao Province (Mindanao), the Filipino army sent in an extra 400-strong battalion, which brings to more than 3,000 the number of soldiers now guarding government offices and the home of the Ampatuan clan. The governor and his clan are accused of killing 57 people on 23 November.

“Our forces are now stationed in the area. They are restricting their movement within the compound [home],” military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Romeo Brawner said.

“Right now the security is very tight in the area. We are stopping their supporters from entering their home,” Brawner said. The latter have private armies who could go on the offensive.

On 23 November, about 100 gunmen attacked a convoy carrying 57 people, including members of Ishmael “Toto” Mangudadatu’s clan.

Mangudadatu is the deputy mayor of Buluan and Ampatuan’s main adversary in next May’s provincial elections. Everyone in the convoy was killed, including Mangudadatu’s wife.

On Tuesday, police arrested Andal Ampatuan’s son, Andal Ampatuan Jr, on charges of murder.

Until his arrest, he was mayor of Datu Unsay and with his father backed incumbent President Arroyo in the upcoming presidential elections.

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