Page last updated at 05:25 GMT, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Philippines police name 161 massacre suspects

Soliders in Maguindanao province, Philippines (7 Dec 2009)
The province has been placed under martial law

Police in the Philippines say they have identified 161 suspects wanted in connection with the massacre of 57 people on Mindanao island last month.

Among the wanted people are government militiamen and members of the powerful Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao province.

Police say clan leader and local mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr organised the attack and killed many of the victims himself.

The government has declared martial law in the province to quell what it said was a rebellion by the Ampatuan clan.

"We have to resolve this case peacefully," national police chief Jesus Verzosa was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

"We are urging them to surrender and then the normal processes of the law and prosecution should be held," he said.

"This is what we are trying to tell everybody - that we must be governed by laws and the rule of laws must be respected."


Among the 57 people who died in the attack on 23 November were members of a rival clan and 30 journalists.

Mr Versoza said witnesses had identified Mr Ampatuan Jr as the leader of the attack, said AP.

He is in police detention and has been charged with 25 counts of murder.

Prosecutors have issued subpoenas to other six members of the Ampatuan family, including Mr Ampatuan's father, to appear at a hearing on 18 December.

They deny any involvement in the attack on a political rival's convoy and have not yet been charged.

A state of martial law was declared in the province on Saturday after the government said it had intelligence that armed groups were plotting an offensive.

It is the first time martial law has been used in the country since the fall of autocrat Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

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