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Latest News Philippines: AMBUSH –

GUNMEN attacked a party led by the mayor of Nunungan, Lanao del Norte Thursday night as they came from a political sortie killing the local official’s daughter and 12 others.

The fatalities were identified as Adnina Manamparan, Baobui Bocua, Juhaney Bantuas, Sammy Murahom, Apipah Mamantuc, Malia Pandara, Lala Diamrang, Alinor Mamuntoc, a certain Handam and their driver identified only as Titing and the latter’s son and two militiamen.

Taken to the nearest hospital for treatment were incumbent Mayor Adul Malik Manamparan; Councilor Aldin Sultan, Pikong Dimasangkay, Tonic  Manamparan, Po1 Frenel Laguting assigned in Nunungan Municipal Police Station and  one unidentified relative of the mayor.

Police Regional Office 10 director Chief Superintendent Catalino B. Rodriguez Jr.  said the attack took place in Barangay Malaig in Nunungan municipality 6:40 p.m. Thursday, shortly after Mayor Abdul Malik Manamparan and his party had just finished campaigning.

Mayor Manamparan suffered a shrapnel wound which grazed his head and was rushed by responding police and military troops to the Mindanao Sanitarium and Hospital in Iligan City.

Rodriguez said the victims were on board a dump truck owned by the Nunungan municipality when they were shot without any provocation by an undetermined number of gunmen. The mayor’s bodyguards returned fire and forced the gunmen to withdraw.

Policemen led by Chief Inspector Henry Monta and Senior Inspector Allan Oniana, backed up by soldiers from the Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion immediately rushed to the site and brought the wounded victims to the hospital.

Investigators said some of the victims identified their attackers as members of a rival family triggering suspicions the ambush was a “Rido” or vendetta attack.

Rodriguez said he has created Special Investigation Task Group Manaparan to investigate the attack and identify and arrest the gunmen. The task force is headed by the director of the Lanao del Norte Police Provincial Office.

He said that they are still investigating if the incident was election-related. Since last January 13, police have recorded 45 election-related violent incidents across the country compared to the 73 recorded during the 2010 presidential and local elections.

Attack condemned

President Benigno Aquino’s spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the authorities are attempting to establish the identities and motives of the attackers.

“We strongly condemn this act of violence,” she told reporters in Manila.

“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, unleashed as the mayor and his party travelled home from a campaign event, was the latest episode of political violence in a country that will hold mid-term 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 murdered 58 people including relatives of a local rival who was planning to challenge the clan leader in gubernatorial elections the following year.

Manamparan is on his last term as 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 President Benigno Aquino’s Liberal Party.

The mayor told AFP 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 are checking the involvement of certain clans which had had previous scraps with the Manamparan family.

“They (survivors) identified the attackers last night, they gave us names… They told us it was a family feud,” Rosales told reporters.

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 from candidates.

New People’s Army rebels ambushed Ruth Guingona, the 78-year-old mayor of the southern city of Gingoog on April 21, killing two of her aides and wounding her and two policemen.

More than 18,000 posts are at stake in the balloting, from town mayors and governors to members of parliament.

Local press reports Friday said two election campaigners in a province near Manila were killed and another wounded in an ambush Thursday, while a district official was killed on the same day in a bomb blast elsewhere on Mindanao.

National police spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo said both attacks are being investigated.    With AFP, Zaida delos Reyes-Palanca


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