Main suspect in southern Philippine massacre surrenders

Manila, Nov 26 (DPA) The main suspect in the grisly killing of at least 57 people in the southern Philippines surrendered Thursday to a senior aide of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Datu Andal Ampatuan Junior was turned over by the members of his family, close political allies of Arroyo, to presidential aide Jesus Dureza in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao province, 930 kilometres south of Manila.

Ampatuan Junior was whisked to a waiting helicopter from the provincial government building of Maguindanao, which was taken over by hundreds of soldiers before dawn.

He was due to be taken to nearby General Santos City airport, where Justice Secretary Agnes Devenadera was expected to receive him and take him to Manila aboard a private jet for further investigation.

Ampatuan Junior, a town mayor, allegedly led a group of more than 100 heavily armed men that stopped a convoy of a political rivals and diverted them to a hilly village in Ampatuan town where they were killed.

The victims, six of whom were beheaded and shot multiple times at close range, were on their way to file the certificate of candidacy of Buluan town Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu for Maguindanao governor in next year’s elections.

They included Mangudadatu’s wife, two sisters, two human rights lawyers and at least 27 local journalists who were covering the event.

Mangudadatu’s candidacy would pit him against the son of incumbent Governor Andal Ampatuan Senior, who had run unopposed in three previous elections.

Mangudadatu said his wife told him before she was killed that they were being held by 100 gunmen led by Ampatuan Junior on the orders of his father.