8 HK tourists killed in Manila hostage crisis

Posted at 08/23/2010 7:35 PM | Updated as of 08/24/2010 1:45 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 7) - At least 8 Hong Kong tourists were killed during a dramatic hostage siege in Manila on Monday.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said 4 out of 5 hostages who were brought to the Manila Doctors Hospital were dead. It is not clear whether they were dead on arrival or expired at the hospital.

One of the 5 hostages at the Manila Doctors hospital is in critical condition, he added.

Four other hostages brought to 3 other hospitals--2 in Ospital ng Maynila, 1 in San Juan de Dios, 1 in Philippine General Hospital--were also killed, reports from radio DZMM and the Manila Health Department said.

At least 7 of 15 hostages who remained on board the hijacked tourist bus as the hostage ended were being treated in 4 hospitals. 

ABS-CBN News footage showed 5 survivors emerge from the bus alive 12 hours after it was first hijacked by a dismissed police officer. The sixth survivor was unconscious. 

The hostage-taker, dismissed police officer Rolando del Rosario Mendoza, was killed after a single shot to the head.

"He is dead. He was forced to retreat to the front of the vehicle when the SWAT (special weapons and tactics police) team attacked from the back," assault leader Superintendent Nelson Yabut told AFP.

The driver of the tourist bus earlier escaped from the vehicle and claimed that all the hostages on the bus were dead.

"Patay na lahat (Everyone is dead)," the driver, Alberto Lubang, told media before being escorted by police away from the scene.

Senior Superintendent Nelson Yabut, leader of the assault team, later confirmed that he saw dead bodies inside the bus.

There were at least 25 hostages on board the tourist bus, which was hijacked at around 9 a.m. Monday morning.

Mendoza freed at least 9 of the hostages before threatening an escalation of the incident by 3 p.m.

The hostage-taker earlier told a live radio broadcast Monday he had shot two of his captives and would kill the others if police did not meet his demands.

"I shot two Chinese. I will finish them all if they do not stop," he told the Radio Mindanao Network.

He added: “I can see a lot of SWAT (special weapons and tactics police) coming in. I know they will kill me. They should all leave because anytime I will do the same here.”

Hostage-taker in police uniform

The hostage drama began when the gunman boarded a bus in Manila's tourist district in a desperate bid to clear his name after being discharged for extortion in 2008.

Manila Police District spokesman Erwin Margarejo said Mendoza was wearing his uniform and carrying a rifle when he flagged down the tourist bus at Fort Santiago and asked for a ride.

A tour guide tried to stop him from boarding the Hong Thai travel bus, which was en route to Rizal Park. Officials said the bus was carrying some 22 tourists from Hong Kong and 3 Filipino nationals when it was taken hostage by Mendoza. 

The hostage-taker was removed from the police force after 31 years of service due to his involvement in an extortion incident in Manila. He was dismissed from the service following a recommendation from the Office of the Ombudsman.

Mendoza reportedly hijacked the tourist bus to force authorities to fast-track a review of his administrative case. He also wants to be reinstated to the service and all benefits and privileges restored, police said.

His brother said Mendoza is protesting the Ombudsman's decision since the internal affairs service of the Philippine National Police had already ruled that he is innocent of the crime. "She's [Ombudsman] biased," Senior Police Officer 2 Gregorio Mendoza told reporters.

Mendoza's brother arrested

The hostage-taker's brother was forcibly handcuffed and taken in by authorities for allegedly being an accessory to the crime.

Gregorio Mendoza tried to resist his apparent arrest after negotiations with his brother did not go as planned.

"They want to make me an accessory. They said that if something happened, they would get me for it. Gusto nila akong idaan sa likod. Tumakbo lang ako," he told ABS-CBN's TV Patrol minutes before police placed him and other relatives inside a waiting police car.

Mendoza earlier accompanied the 2 hostage negotiators, Superintendent Orlando Yebra Jr. and Chief Inspector Romeo Salvador, in talking to his brother.

He earlier said that he had no knowledge of the hostage-taking incident and was only informed of the situation via text. -- With Agence France-Presse