Philippine massacre death toll rises

The death toll from an attack on a group of journalists and politicians in the southern Philippines rose to 39 on Tuesday after 17 more bodies were found, police said.

All 17 were pulled from a mass grave on a hillside in the remote farming village of Saniag, said Chief Superintendent Josefino Cataluna, the regional police commander.

“They were piled on top of each other. It looked as if they were buried hurriedly,” he told reporters from the scene of the massacre in Maguindanao province.

Twenty-two bodies had previously been found beside a dirt road nearby following Monday’s killings by gunmen allegedly linked to the area’s political kingpin.

The group abducted associates of a rival politician and a large group of journalists who were covering them.

National police chief Jesus Verzosa, who flew to the south to supervise the investigation, said he feared the death toll could rise with several other members of the kidnapped party of more than 40 people still missing.

“We still have to check one other suspected mass grave,” he added.

“We expect more bodies from other areas,” Cataluna said.

Journalists on the scene said a mechanical digger was emblazoned with the name of the Maguindanao provincial governor, Andal Ampatuan, whose bodyguards had been blamed by the military as being behind the massacre.—Sapa-AFP

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