Maguindanao massacre suspect nabbed

Posted at 03/26/2012 12:37 PM | Updated as of 03/26/2012 3:58 PM

COTABATO, Philippines - Philippine police said Monday they had arrested a wanted member of a powerful Muslim clan blamed for the country's worst political massacre after he was injured in a blast.

Ipeh Ampatuan, 27, was among 100 suspects at large for the massacre allegedly orchestrated by his grandfather in which 57 people were gunned down in the southern province of Maguindanao in 2009.

Ampatuan was believed to have been escaping to remote marshland near the southern city of Cotabato on Sunday when a blast destroyed the boat he was in, wounding him and several others and leaving another person dead.

"The arrested suspect has been hospitalised due to injuries sustained during the explosion," provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Marcelo Pintac told reporters.

He said it was not clear what caused the explosion on the boat, and police were surprised to discover Ampatuan was among those injured.

"He has warrants of arrest and we served it," Pintac said.

Pintac said he had deployed additional policemen and requested a Marine unit to guard the hospital, amid reports that Ampatuan gunmen could try to rescue the wounded suspect.

Several members of the Ampatuan clan, including Ipeh's father and grand father, are also in custody while being tried for the murders.

The Ampatuans allegedly led a group of about 100 gunmen in stopping a convoy of cars carrying relatives of a rival political candidate, their lawyers and journalists, and then systematically killing them near a grassy hill.

The killings were apparently meant to stop Esmael Mangudadatu, a member of a rival political clan, from challenging the governorship of Maguindanao province, which the Ampatuans had controlled for over a decade.

Thirty-two of the victims were journalists, while the body of another reporter believed to be also in the convoy remains unaccounted for two years after the crime.

Philippine politicians, especially those in remote areas, are known to control their own private armies and clashes among them are common.

But the November 2009 massacre was the worst, and two years after the crime none have yet been convicted.

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