Multiple murder charges have been laid against a politician suspected of being behind Monday’s politically motivated carnage on island of Mindanao and the main suspect have surrendered to the police.
Andal Ampatuan Jr, a local mayor in Maguindanao province, was flown out by an army helicopter from the provincial capital, where he was handed over by his brother to a senior government official and the top military general in the region. Police have also arrested men said to be part of Amputuan’s private militia.
However, Amputuan told officials that he was not responsible for Monday’s attack.
“The charges are baseless,” Ampatuan later told reporters at an airport in General Santos City. “They are not true. My conscience is clear.”
Witnesses say that he was leading the ambush by armed men who shot and mutilated women and journalists.
Those killed were linked to Esmael Mangadadatu, who had despatched the group to lodge election documents to challenge Amputuan’s run for governor of the province.
President Gloria Arroyo has led prayers in a day of national mourning and has promised justice. But her close links to the Amputuan family have undermined her tough stance.
The military has taken control of parts of the province as it tries to track down members of the Amputuan private militia.